Gloucester Rugby: Matt Cox ready to do battle
COMBATIVE Matt Cox will not give up Gloucester's number six shirt without a fight – in both training skirmishes and Premiership combat.
The 24-year-old flanker admits Gloucester's pre-season training has been one long chest-thumping exercise for the loose forwards.
Now the Premiership has finally arrived, Cox is determined to keep himself at the top end of the pecking order.
Cox will start at blindside for this afternoon's league opener against Northampton Saints at Kingsholm (kick-off 3pm) – and he knows only a first-rate showing will keep him in the side.
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Keen for Gloucester to test themselves against one of the Premiership's most dangerous sides, Cox said the Cherry and Whites must be at their physical best to pull off a result today.
Cox explained: "Everyone in the back-row is hungry, most of us are young, and the whole group of back-rowers are fighting very hard for chances.
"Everyone's still eyeing each other up in training, even after three months of pre-season.
"It's a real case of one-upmanship, with everyone puffing their chests out and trying to prove themselves – and it still will be for some time to come yet.
"That's healthy, though, because it makes all of us better players.
"We'll take each other on in training at the right times, and we need that.
"We get tasty in forwards sessions, and that's important.
"That kind of competition, it's great, because if you do earn the right to start, it means a massive amount.
"But getting into the team is just the start, then you've got to back up the coaches' decision to select you, and on top of that do everything you can to keep the shirt.
"There's no let-up there, and I'm like that every time I play.
"You do everything you can to give your best.
"But if you know you slip up then someone else will take the shirt, that's another motivation level.
"I don't want that, no way.
"I'm not about to let someone else take it, not after working for three months for this chance.
"I don't want to lose that shirt, I'm not giving it up after one game.
"I thought I didn't really have my best game against Doncaster last week, so I had a bit of a sleepless night afterwards.
"But I've been lucky enough to win selection, and I'm very excited."
Former Worcester Warrior Cox said there's nothing for it other than to expect all-out pack war against Saints.
Everyone steels themselves differently – but this afternoon, Cox will plug into some rock music, and pump himself up.
He continued: "It would be a big scalp to come away with a victory, just to get into the season.
"I'm happy to play a big team straightaway, we'll see where we stand right from the off.
"We're playing for the top four and the top six, so we might as well go up against the top teams straightaway.
"We know what gets them into the game as well as us, so we know what we're up against.
"There's no bones about it. They're going to be physical, they like to think they're an imposing side, and with the pack they've got they're coming at you.
"So you've just got to listen to your rock music, do the warm-up lap, and then it's on.
"That's what does it for me.
"It doesn't matter who you're up against, you've got to prepare the same, get in the same mental state and do the same things.
"Training's looking sharp, everything's coming together, and now we've just got to step up."
Keen to deliver seamless possession for Gloucester's rapid-fire backline, Cox said Gloucester have the most potent back-three in the league.
He added: "We've got to have the most dangerous back-three. I look at others and there is quality all around, but our guys are seriously talented.
"And we've got to release those guys and give them the space to score the tries we all know they can.
"James Simpson-Daniel has done it season after season, and there's no reason why we can't just keep going."