Gloucester Rugby: Rob Cook's confidence grows ahead of Harlequins test
IN another world Rob Cook would have ended up a Leicester Tiger.
The 28-year-old went to the same school as Tigers duo Tom Croft and Matt Smith, representing Leicestershire Under-18s.
The Lincoln-born full-back nearly even forced his way into the England Schools side.
Had his rugby taken off when he left Oakham School, it is a fair bet Leicester would have drawn him in.
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Some ten years down the line then, he admitted it was as surreal as it was amazing to line up against and put one over the team that he followed growing up.
The summer Cornish Pirates recruit impressed again in Saturday's 27-21 Leicester victory, revealing the Kingsholm atmosphere was the best he has ever experienced.
The Worcester University graduate explained: "If it wasn't for Oakham School I wouldn't be where I am today, that's for sure.
"The sporting facilities, coaching and just general time and effort put into sport, that really helped me, and it gave me a lot of opportunities.
"I went to Oakham for sixth form and played for Leicestershire Under-18s.
"I nearly got into England Under-18s but didn't quite make it.
"Tom Croft and Matt Smith were two years below me, so I knew of them but didn't know them very well.
"But there were a few others who went to Leicester that I knew as well.
"And Tigers were the team that I always followed so it was quite surreal playing against them to be honest.
"It was amazing to get that opportunity, and it was a great game to be a part of.
"Everyone I've spoken to about the game just said 'wow'.
"It was a great game to play in, really enjoyable and exciting – and we were delighted to close out the result.
"Win or lose it would have been memorable, because of the way the crowd got behind us – I've never experienced an atmosphere like it, to be honest.
"But fortunately we got the result."
Cook made greater inroads into cricket than rugby initially after leaving school, representing Lincolnshire at minor counties level.
And after graduating from his sports coaching degree he worked as a cricket development officer, while playing rugby for Nuneaton.
It was only with the Pirates where Cook really kick-started his rugby career – and now he is relishing his first season in the top flight with Gloucester.
Growing in confidence with every week, Cook said he feels ready to push his attacking game to new levels.
Expecting a stern challenge from league leaders Harlequins at The Stoop tomorrow (kick-off 5.15pm), Cook continued: "It's a massive test for us and we're excited to see how we measure up again.
"I feel like I'm growing in confidence every week at the moment.
"I was feeling pretty good about my defence and organising the back-three, but then on Saturday I felt like I was able to take it up a notch attacking as well.
"I'm getting more comfortable all the time, the longer I spend working together with the other players.
"The more time you're together, the more you know what other players will do in certain situations.
"And that means you can then plan for what you do off the back of that much more quickly.
"We're getting to that stage now, and it's pretty exciting.
"But we're just quietly going about our business."