Gloucester Rugby: Lewis to start as Davies shuffles his pack
DAVE Lewis will lead a group of players starved of starts that take on Mont de Marsan tomorrow night – and Nigel Davies is demanding his rotated side develop Gloucester's game.
Scrum-half Lewis will make his first start of the season against the French Top 14 outfit, after boss Davies promised him his chance when he missed out against Bath at the weekend.
The likes of Tim Molenaar, Tim Taylor and even Academy lock Elliot Stooke all also come into first team contention for Gloucester's opening Amlin Challenge Cup clash.
Rugby director Davies will shuffle his pack – but still expects the side that takes the field at Stade Guy Boniface to elevate Gloucester's game to new heights.
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Gearing up for a physical clash tomorrow (kick-off 7.30pm UK time), the Gloucester boss said 23-year-old Lewis has a great chance to stake his claim, while battling alongside new All Black arrival Jimmy Cowan, and Dan Robson.
Davies explained: "I've promised Dave a start in this match and he'll get that chance because he deserves it.
"It was a very difficult call to leave him out of the Bath game, and in all honesty he has been playing very well.
"Someone had to miss out but it was tough on Dave, so I made definitely sure he knew that he would have his chance.
"Both Dan Robson and Dave have played very well so far this season, and no one deserved to miss out against Bath.
"There will always be tight calls, but whoever is playing the best rugby will win selection.
"Jimmy Cowan has settled in very well and he needs time in matches as well, but there is plenty of time for that as well as making sure he eases into things.
"But certainly Dave has been unlucky not to start up until this point, and so the time is definitely right for him to have that chance now."
All Black World Cup winner Cowan came off the bench in Saturday's 16-10 Bath victory, replacing 20-year-old Robson.
Stoke-born Robson has started all Gloucester's six Premiership clashes so far this term: so now Lewis has his chance to impress.
Former Llanelli Scarlets boss Davies said tomorrow's European excursion is not a chance to relax after four wins, one draw and one defeat in initial league action.
Instead he has called on his players to cement the Cherry and Whites' strong start to the new campaign.
He continued: "Well make some changes but we're expecting no less from these players: they've got to step up to the plate and they've actually got to take our game forward.
"And far from seeing this as an opportunity to relax a little bit, that's the last thing we're doing.
"We're just going to push on and look to get better and stronger.
"We're changing the team but we're challenging them to keep the momentum and the mentality going, and to drive us forward too.
"It's very important that we don't make wholesale changes, but the majority of the squad will have already played first team rugby this season too.
"It's been unfortunate for some of them that they haven't had an opportunity at all, and this is that chance.
"They have to take that forward, it's their opportunity, and it's how they view that that counts.
"We've challenged the players to take our game forward and develop it further in this Amlin run now, even though we're making a few changes.
"And we're expecting them to step up.
"Virtually everyone that has come into the team has stepped up this season and performed.
"That's the beauty of when you are starting to win games, and that creates real competition for places.
"So we've got to step it up in that respect now and move ourselves forward."