Gloucester Rugby: Juggernaut Akapusi Qera to wreak havoc in Premiership
JUGGERNAUT flanker Akapusi Qera has chosen to wreak havoc in the Premiership ahead of causing autumn international mayhem with Fiji, writs Nick Purewal.
The bulldozing loose forward has opted to stay with Gloucester rather than link up with his national side in their Northern Hemisphere tour that starts next month.
The 28-year-old back-rower could even line up for Gloucester against his national side, when the Cherry and Whites host Fiji at Kingsholm on Tuesday, November 13 (kick-off 7.45pm).
Andy Hazell's 14-week ban for punching and kneeing Mont de Marsan's Sebastien Ormaechea leaves Qera and Matt Cox as the front-runners for Gloucester's openside role.
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Former Worcester battler Cox might be viewed as Gloucester's long-term successor to Hazell, but Gloucester need both flankers in prime form to sustain their strong start to the new season, both at home and in Europe.
Gloucester boss Nigel Davies hailed Qera's destructive defensive performance in Saturday's 27-21 victory over Leicester Tigers – then tipped him to keep on improving in the coming weeks and months.
Davies explained: "He told me he wants to focus on Gloucester this year, and we're absolutely delighted with that.
"It's important to point out that we urge all our players to push for international rugby, and we would never ask a player to sacrifice that.
"But Q has said he wants to be here and concentrate on things at Kingsholm, and that's a real boost for us.
"He was fantastic against Leicester, his impact in the collision and his ball-carrying was great, and when you've got players like that in your team it actually lifts the whole side.
"I thought our back-row was very powerful on Saturday, and put down a big marker.
"Sione Kalamafoni just keeps on improving, while Ben Morgan has produced a lot of unseen work that we've been really delighted with already this year."
Davies hailed Gloucester's street-smart reaction to battling nine second-half minutes with 13 men against Leicester, when both Jimmy Cowan and Rob Cook were sent to the sin-bin.
Buoyed by his side's stubborn victory, the Gloucester boss admitted he had never known a club rugby atmosphere quite like Saturday's Kingsholm experience.
Davies enthused: "That was a fabulous win for us in a fabulous occasion – for me in club rugby I've not experienced anything quite like the support we had on Saturday.
"I know the players gave the supporters a lot to cheer about – but what a fabulous place Kingsholm is when we have an event like that.
"They're hungry for success like we are, and it's great to be able to put in a performance like that for them: I think the players and staff end up just as proud of the supporters as I hope we can make them of us.
"I'm really delighted with our overall performance, we've been on a run of winning games which has been underpinned by our grit and determination, which we showed in bags in the second half.
"But what we showed in the first half is what we're capable of as a side, and we played some great rugby.
"When we went down to 13 players, the momentum swung, playing against one of the best sides in this league, but the grit and determination and effort that the boys showed was unbelievable really.
"One of the buzzwords with this group of players is 'adapt' – if things don't go our way, we've got to react.
"We showed that quality particularly well when we went down to 13 men, the whole team had to adapt.
"We had to slow the game down a little bit, and we bought enough time to get those guys back on the field."