Gloucester Rugby: Time for experimenting is over says Nigel Davies
THE EXPERIMENTS are over, and now Nigel Davies wants results from his entire Gloucester squad.
The Cherry and Whites slipped up 28-17 in rain-soaked Munster on Saturday night, outscored four tries to three and outmanoeuvred territorially by the hosts.
Fit-again Jimmy Cowan, arch-finisher Steph Reynolds and physical hooker Koree Britton claimed Gloucester's tries.
Debutant wing Andrew Conway, full-back Denis Hurley, fly-half JJ Hanrahan and flanker CJ Stander secured the scores for the powerful Thomond Park side.
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Academy flier Reynolds impressed in his first Gloucester outing at full-back, running in the try of the night.
The 19-year-old capped a solid display with an inch-perfect finish, skinning two stunned defenders after a fine sleight of hand from fly-half Jonny Bentley.
Rugby director Davies remains unfazed by Gloucester's two pre-season defeats, at Toulon and now Munster.
But the former Wales centre will not tolerate any further reverses.
Gloucester host first Plymouth Albion (5pm) then Llanelli Scarlets (7.45pm) in a Kingsholm double-header on Friday night.
Davies has told his charges that the time for victories has now arrived, to step into the Premiership opener against Sale at Kingsholm on Saturday week in winning form.
He said: "We are pleased with a lot of aspects from our two pre-season matches so far.
"Both games have been massive tests that have allowed a large number of the squad to make progress.
"Toulon were right at the top of their game, finalising their preparations for their season, when we met.
"And at Munster we were able to give rugby to a lot of players coming back from injury who desperately need minutes on the pitch.
"Both experiences will stand us in great stead for the season ahead.
"But now we've got to step it up through the levels for this week.
"On Friday I want to see something entirely different.
"It's the last chance for the whole squad to state their case for selection for the start of the season.
"And it's the last opportunities for us to go into the new campaign with wins under our belts.
"We've lost our two pre-season games so far and I'm relatively relaxed about that, because pre-season is about a whole lot more than results.
"But on Friday we need results, so we'll be going all out for two victories, and things hopefully will be quite different."
Former Hartpury RFC speed man Reynolds has raced through the Gloucester ranks in the last 18 months.
The sharp try-scorer has impressed to the extent that he has overhauled the highly-regarded Ian Clark, who has since signed for National League One club Coventry.
After showing his range of finishing in Gloucester's sevens side, now Reynolds has transferred that ability to the full line-up.
It was his try that lit up an otherwise uninspired night in Limerick that was packed with the kind of tactical kicking typical of such a horrid, rain-ravaged encounter.
Reynolds turned out at 15 for the first time for Gloucester, with Martyn Thomas still carrying a shoulder knock.
And Davies admitted he will now consider Reynolds at full-back again in future.
Davies continued: "When you're playing against a side of the quality of Munster who will challenge you everywhere, you've really got to be on your mettle.
"Any crack and they would expose that.
"So Steph had to extremely hard to cover that back-three – and that's exactly what he did.
"He did a fine job considering the fact that he's not a natural.
"We've got to look at him there, obviously we can play him on the wing, but the back-three skill-set has to be similar across the board.
"It was worth exploring our options, and I think that went well.
"I've got nothing but praise for him really in his first game for Gloucester at full-back."