Gloucester Rugby: Let's make Munster return the key, says Nigel Davies
THE Munster rematch must be the Heineken Cup pool six decider, Nigel Davies has challenged Gloucester.
The Cherry and Whites boss admits his side were not accurate enough in attack to merit victory at Thomond Park on Saturday night. Gloucester went down fighting 26-10 against the gritty Limerick outfit, who registered tries through BJ Botha and Johne Murphy to edge to the win.
The Kingsholm men claimed a smart try through Charlie Sharples, with Jonny Bentley converting and adding a penalty.
Rugby director Davies made 12 changes to the starting line-up that sneaked past Perpignan 27-22 just a week earlier, sticking to his bold selection strategy to hand a host of patient players their chance to impress.
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Gloucester lacked nothing in terms of bite and tenacity, and Davies believes his side's ability to go 'toe-to-toe' with their hosts underlines the club's growing strength in depth.
Frustrated some had viewed his line-up as a second team, Davies said his players proved their worth – and generated some tough selection calls for the coming weeks.
Gloucester take on Edinburgh home and away in the first two weeks of December, with Perpignan and Munster doing likewise in pool six.
Davies is already itching to get one back on Munster at Kingsholm in January – and called on his players to deliver against Edinburgh to set up a potential group decider in round five against the Irish men.
He explained: "We've come to a very difficult place, we've put in a performance, and we'll look forward to taking on Munster at Kingsholm.
"It was a great game, great intensity, we'll have home advantage next time and there's no doubt that gives you an edge.
"Munster are a good side and they'll only get better this season.
"They know their game and play it very well, and bring a real physical edge.
"We knew all of that and I thought we matched them in the large part around that area, and we'll take confidence that we can do that just that little bit better when we face them at Kingsholm.
"Ultimately our inaccuracy on the ball let Munster off the hook a little bit, especially given their desperation to perform after defeat to Edinburgh.
"This group is wide open now.
"The back-to-back sequences will tell us quite a bit.
"Who knows, but I think the game at Kingsholm between these two teams could be quite significant as well.
"I would imagine both sides will come into that off the back-to-backs in decent shape, and that's certainly what I'll be hoping for in any case.
"We've had a strategy all along in terms of Europe and we'll hopefully be able to deliver that.
"I've watched Edinburgh a lot at the start of this season and domestically they have been poor. But just as when they got to the semi-final of the Heineken Cup they have been strong in Europe.
"They are a dangerous side, full of internationals.
"But we've got to come out of that back-to-back very positively.
"And if we can do that it will be a fantastic encounter at Kingsholm, and I'm looking forward to it.
"You come to a place like Thomond Park and go toe-to-toe with Munster, then you can take a lot of confidence from that."
Frustrated to come away empty-handed, Davies lauded a strong scrum and impressive turns from the likes of Dan Robson and Ryan Mills.
He continued: "I'm bitterly disappointed because I genuinely thought we could get something out of the game.
"The fact we weren't accurate enough when we had opportunities around the ball is our own doing in many ways.
"And we have to look at ourselves first and foremost.
"But in terms of the effort, spirit and commitment it was fantastic, and I'm very, very proud of that group of players.
"People have made quite a lot of the selection plan, but I was always comfortable all along that it was the right thing to do: we had a very physical encounter against Perpignan. We probably would not have made as many changes as we did, but we had some changes forced on us through injury this week.
"But the players who played were able to prepare mentally and physically for this big match, and for me they performed to a large degree.
"To be successful domestically and in Europe you must have strength in depth.
"And to develop that you can buy players, or you can develop what you've got internally.
"The only way to develop rugby players is to play them, and play them in big competitions.
"The fact we've made quite a few changes for these two games, I don't think it's distracted anything in the short term.
"And in the medium term it will have a huge benefit for the development of players and the strength in depth of our squad.
"I think people can make their own mind up on that performance, and the effort and endeavour that the team put in.
"It doesn't sit comfortably with me to say that was a second team, because it wasn't at all.
"There are a lot of positions up for grabs in my squad."