Gloucester Rugby: Hooker D'Apice is backed to extend his stay
HIDDEN gem Tommaso D'Apice has earned his one-year Gloucester deal the hard way – and now Nigel Davies has backed him to secure a longer-term Kingsholm future.
Italian hooker D'Apice completed his Gloucester move yesterday, after five weeks on trial with the Cherry and Whites.
His initial two-week stint had been extended week-on-week since his arrival, with the 24-year-old never sure whether he would be able to tie down a Kingsholm contract.
But yesterday he completed formalities on a 12-month term, and rugby director Davies has now tipped him to forge a bright Gloucester future.
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D'Apice's future was thrown into doubt when Aironi folded at the start of the summer.
The former Roma front-rower could most likely have signed with new Italian franchise the Zebras, but chose instead to try his luck in the Premiership.
D'Apice's persistence has paid off, and now he fills the void left by Andy Long's enforced retirement.
The former Bath and Newcastle hooker had signed terms to switch from Northampton, but a neck injury ended his career instead.
Davies said the break-up of Aironi has effectively gifted Gloucester a player with the potential to reach the highest quality, who would otherwise have been unavailable.
The Gloucester boss explained: "Obviously Tommy came on the radar quite late in our preparation, We've got two senior hookers and a young developing hooker in Koree (Britton) who needs to play rugby.
"That's the next stage in his development and at the moment he's probably not going to get that with us.
"So I felt that we needed to bring in someone else to strengthen a key position for us.
"Tommaso is a quality player who has Six Nations and World Cup experience with Italy, he's a 24-year-old who is still developing himself as well.
"The deal we've been able to strike suits both parties because we've been able to bring him in within our budget but also it gives him an opportunity to develop as a rugby player in one of the best leagues in the world.
"It's worked out very well for both parties, in terms of having a player of his quality available to us for a year, and we'll review where he is around about December, January time, hopefully with the intent of keeping him on.
"He's a good guy, he's brought a lot to the group, he's learned very quickly, and most importantly he's very keen to learn himself, and the boys have taken to him."
The industrious Italy cap has impressed all-round at Kingsholm, so much so that taskmaster prop Nick Wood was quick to extol his virtues to the coaching staff.
Hard to impress by nature, Wood is not one to sing praises just for the sake of it.
D'Apice's capture opens up several loan avenues for Academy graduate Koree Britton.
Davies said Devon-born Britton would have been wasted as a back-up hooker at Kingsholm this term – because right now he needs to play as often as possible to accelerate his progress.
Davies continued: "It would have hindered his development having Koree with us as potentially third choice this year. The A League is very important to me, we've got a lot of games in the first month, so we'll keep the boys playing together, working in the systems that we've brought into place, and that obviously worked very well on Monday.
"There will be tougher challenges for that United side and I want to keep that core together, to see them working in the system we're working, and see how they all progress."
Another trialist making waves is scrum-half Brad Field, who caught Davies' eye in Gloucester United's whopping 82-0 A League victory over Worcester Cavaliers at Sixways on Monday night.
Hailing Field's organisational skills, Davies added: "Brad's getting on very well, what I was impressed with on Monday night was his ability to boss the forwards.
"We've got two young nines at the moment, and that's their big challenge – they are quality players – but their big challenge is to boss the pack.
"At driving lineouts for instance the pack can't see what's going on, and so they need someone to tell them where to go and what to do, and that's what Brad did very well on Monday night for the United side."