Gloucester Rugby: Molenaar - We cannot let our standards slip
FOCUSED Gloucester will be gunning to uphold high new-season standards at the Opsreys tonight, believes Tim Molenaar.
The powerful 31-year-old centre admitted the fact several of tonight's squad are playing for their Kingsholm futures has concentrated collective minds.
The Cherry and Whites open their LV=Cup run at the Liberty Stadium (kick-off 7.45pm), desperate to sustain their strong start to the campaign.
Kiwi Molenaar said Gloucester have handed starts to a host of players desperate to prove their worth.
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Seven of Gloucester's senior starters tonight are out of contract at the end of the campaign – and that total does not include the Academy men involved, who are generally retained on one-year deals.
Molenaar has another year to run on his Gloucester deal – but he said the overall contract situation has added extra impetus to an already fired-up Cherry and Whites squad this week.
Admitting stern selection competition means every chance is priceless, Molenaar explained: "We've made a few finals in this competition in recent years, and obviously there's a Heineken Cup place up for grabs for the winner.
"We're in three competitions this year, and we've won two out of two games in Europe, as well as having a strong start in the Premiership.
"This is the start of the next competition, and everyone involved is keen to make sure we do just as well in this as we have the others.
"It's a big game for the 23 playing, and we'll target this competition as well.
"We've set ourselves a high bar as a club, and now it's up to us to live up to that.
"I relish every game I can get hold of at the moment.
"The team's playing well so you can't expect massive wholesale changes within the side that's been playing in the Premiership.
"It's a massive opportunity for everyone playing, and hopefully we can play well and create a few question marks throughout the squad.
"There's a few boys out of contract, so it's a competitive nature around here at the moment.
"People are battling hard for their futures, and that's a great motivator.
"There's a lot of midfielders, and a lot of good midfielders.
"So we're all battling hard for time on the field, and it's exciting stuff."
Backing Gloucester's much-changed line-up to settle quickly to the task, Molenaar said national pride is only of secondary concern.
Molenaar said Gloucester's Welsh management contingent – boss Nigel Davies and defence coach Paul Moriarty – clearly have extra vested interest in victory on home soil.
But the former Nottingham centre said that will not affect the approach.
He added: "Everyone in the squad is ready for this.
"We've brought in a couple of the Hartpury and Academy boys, and that's exciting for them.
"Most of the guys have played together in Amlin or A games, so it might take us ten minutes to get things together at the start – but as long as we keep it tight as we settle in, then that should see us right.
"I know this means a lot to Nigel and Paul.
"As a Kiwi I don't know all the ins and outs of the rivalry, but clearly they'll be gunning for us.
"Everyone wants to prove that their league competition is superior when it's one country against another, but all we are worried about is winning."