Gloucester Rugby: Playmaker Ryan Mills will give new direction
SLICK playmaker Ryan Mills will add a timely extra dimension to Gloucester's backline, believes impressed Nigel Davies.
Cherry and Whites pivot Mills is almost poised for a playing return – ahead of schedule after undergoing knee surgery in August.
The 20-year-old inside back had to have a genetic defect fixed in the summer, and was expected to be out for as long as six months.
But now the physical Exeter-born midfielder could be back in action as early as next weekend's Amlin Challenge Cup trip to Bordeaux.
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Gloucester boss Davies (inset) admits Mills almost represents a new addition to the squad now he is making his first impression on training this term.
Rugby director Davies also confirmed centre Henry Trinder and wing Jonny May are also finally on the cusp of returning, with tighthead prop Rupert Harden nearing fitness again too.
Backing Mills to make a fast impression, Davies explained: "It's very exciting to have Ryan back in the mix, he trained very well yesterday.
"He's very slick, very smooth and he brings a different dimension to the backline again.
"So I'm delighted that he'll be available soon after a long time off.
"We probably need to have him staying versatile going into the Six Nations period, but it's great that we've got the cavalry coming back to help us out as well.
"He's got a lot to his game, he's highly-skilled, very powerful, a very bright rugby player, so he ticks a lot of the boxes to be honest.
"It's a real chance to work with him properly and bring him into our team this season, but I'm sure he'll certainly add to what we've got."
Wily 23-year-old Trinder has not played since picking up a groin strain in Gloucester's 11-6 win at Mont de Marsan on October 11.
Speed king May has been sidelined with knee ligament trouble since Gloucester edged out Wasps 29-22 at Kingsholm on September 22.
Admitting Mills, Trinder and May will not be quite ready for Saturday's Premiership clash with London Irish at Kingsholm (kick-off 3pm), Davies said the backline will definitely receive welcome bolstering when they are available again.
In Saturday's 17-12 Leicester defeat, illness to Rob Cook and a late injury to Drew Locke left Dave Lewis as Gloucester's last available back to slot onto the bench.
Player/backs coach Mike Tindall has already racked up 16 appearances this term, when he could reasonably have expected to be called on at least slightly more intermittently than in years past.
With Freddie Burns and Billy Twelvetrees in the running for full England squad promotion, Davies knows he will need as many midfield men fit and on form as possible in the next two months.
Keen to see some of his more incisive backline operators hit back with a bang, Davies continued: "They are all very, very close, including Ryan.
"The three backs in particular, they are training with us, they are all doing contact.
"It's probably a week too soon for them all, but after that it will be great to have some new options there, because we've been really close to the wire this season so far in terms of our midfield options.
"Having them back should give us a few more different strings to our bow I would have thought.
"There's been a lot of X-factor players not available to us in the first period of the season.
"But we've been able to build some stability in the team in that time, and that's been great.
"As we look to expand our game though, it will be great to have different options as well.
"There's definitely light at the end of the tunnel now for Jonny, it's been very frustrating for him.
"Initially the diagnosis wasn't that bad, but for whatever reason it hasn't panned out like that, and sometimes that's just how it goes.
"On the flipside we've been performing well without these guys, and now we've got the luxury of being able to include them in the next couple of weeks."