Gloucester Rugby: Nigel Davies relishes challenge of Exeter Chiefs
SMALL talk can pay try-scoring dividend as Gloucester gear up for one of the games of the season against Exeter Chiefs, believes Nigel Davies.
The Cherry and Whites boss has told his players to hold tight for a thrilling, brutal, tense – but also wide-open – contest against Exeter at Kingsholm on Sunday (kick-off 2pm).
Rugby director Davies thinks Gloucester-Exeter games boast a complex dynamic, where both teams will play open rugby, but stretch each other to the last on the scoreboard.
Davies has challenged his players to sharpen up their sloppy finishing this week – and has demanded more chat on the field.
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Fit-again lock James Hudson is primed for his Premiership debut at last after recovering from pectoral muscle trouble suffered in pre-season.
Hooker Huia Edmonds is back in contention too, while Davies will give Dan Murphy as long as possible to recover from a 'jarred' knee suffered in Sunday's 22-16 Newcastle win.
Exeter edged Goucester 40-39 in the final game of last season at Sandy Park in an eight-try sizzler.
Davies expects more of the same this weekend – but is adamant his men must sharpen their try-finishing razor.
He explained: "It should be a cracking match, and if you go off our game down there against them last year which was one of the matches of the season, you can expect something similar.
"Both sides will go out with an intent to play rugby.
"Certain sides play each other and there's a certain style and dynamic to the game.
"And all the games against Exeter have been very tight and close affairs, strangely enough even though the rugby can be quite open.
"Some of that finishing revolves around still coming to terms with our game, and the players around each other.
"A lot of that goes back to communication, so the small talk between players has to improve.
"When the players are talking a lot, the guy on the ball knows what's on.
"I want the players next to the guy on the ball to make some decisions for the man in possession. It makes things far easier all-round.
"If that communication isn't quite working then you can get breakdowns when you've created excellent scoring chances.
"Once it starts to click and it starts to happen, the momentum and the confidence will soar.
"We've put ourselves in some great situations, but we've got to be a lot more clinical."
Resilience was Gloucester's watchword in Davies' first Kingsholm season.
While he relishes that grit, he also concedes it is high time his side started burying opponents rather than stringing clashes all the way to tense final exchanges.
He continued: "We're pretty good at taking things to the wire – I've told the players I'm not going to live a long life if they keep it up!
"We went through some scenarios yesterday in terms of managing those last five minutes, because we tend to find we have to.
"In actual fact when you look at the game against Newcastle, if we'd have dealt with our opportunities better we'd never have been in that situation.
"We never want to be in a position where we have to win a game or get a bonus point in those last five minutes, and we have found ourselves in that case in a lot of instances.
"We can definitely pull away from teams earlier by controlling games for larger parts than we do.
"But also when we do control games, it's about converting the opportunities we create."
Hooker Koree Britton is facing a four-week ban after his red card in Monday night's 38-16 A League defeat at Leicester.
Former Gloucester favourite Ryan Lamb was handed a one-week ban for his part in an ugly brawl at Welford Road.
Frustrated Gloucester boss Davies backed Britton's decision to plead not guilty in Tuesday night's RFU disciplinary hearing, admitting he will raise his annoyance in a letter.
Ruling out any appeal, Davies said he harbours no anger against Britton, who he said was simply protecting a team-mate after Lamb's actions sparked the melee.