Gloucester Rugby: Young guns sent back to frontline
GLOUCESTER'S young guns are ready for the Fiji challenge tomorrow night – and they need the experience, believes boss Nigel Davies.
The Cherry and Whites rugby director will throw the majority of the young squad that lost out 33-27 at the Ospreys on Friday night straight back into top-level action at Kingsholm tomorrow (kick-off 7.45pm).
A tight four-day turnaround sets up a testing double-header for the likes of Elliott Stooke, Koree Britton and even more established young talents like Dan Robson.
But Davies has confidence in his developing talents – and said the only way they will hit their straps – and fast – is through experiences like this.
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Powerhouse flanker Akapusi Qera is unlikely to feature for Gloucester against his country Fiji tomorrow – because Davies wants him for Saturday's LV=Cup clash against London Welsh.
Former Llanelli boss Davies is preparing to throw several of his frontline stars back into action against Welsh – to build them back into shape and form ahead of the return to the Premiership a week later.
Gloucester host Sale Sharks on Saturday, November 24 in the league, and Davies wants all his big guns in prime condition.
Gearing up for a busy week, Davies said: "We'll probably put out a similar side to the team that we did on Friday, and then look to change things round for London Welsh.
"Most of these boys will have to back Friday up tomorrow and it's a great experience for them.
"It should be an exciting night at Kingsholm with Fiji in town, and these boys have an opportunity again to show what they can do.
"The important thing about improving the strength and depth of the squad is that one of the best ways to do that is by giving experience to the young players you have through the squad.
"We've tried to do that as much as possible this year, in the A League, the Amlin and now the LV=Cup.
"It's really important we keep on pushing things that way, and realise that our priority this year is the league, while also using the other competitions to help us push on with the constant challenge of strengthening the squad as things progress."
Battering-ram flanker Qera grafted hard at Twickenham on Saturday, as Fiji lost out 54-12 to more robust England.
After initially rejecting Fiji's advances for autumn international action, in favour of fighting for Gloucester in November, Qera was pressed into service on Saturday to offset injury problems.
That call-up is still expected to last just the one match, and so Gloucester anticipate the 28-year-old being available for the entirety of this week.
But Gloucester chief Davies admits he sees more value in pitching him into action against London Welsh on Saturday, rather than letting him loose against his countrymen tomorrow.
No doubt the supporters would have loved to see Qera take on his national team-mates in club colours at his home ground.
The Gloucester boss knows he has to keep control of the bigger picture though – and that means keeping one eye on the visit of Sale on Saturday week.
Men like Nick Wood, Rupert Harden and Tom Savage up front, and Freddie Burns, Billy Twelvetrees and James Simpson-Daniel behind the scrum too, will all benefit from time out from Friday's Ospreys clash.
All those and more could do with some involvement against Welsh however, to keep them battle-hardened.
Davies added: "Akapusi could be an option but I think if he's released then we'd probably look to use him on Saturday.
"While we mix things up and give opportunities for people in these games in competitions like the LV=Cup, we've also got to make sure we don't leave other players could.
"So we'll have that in mind when we're making selection calls for Saturday's game against Welsh, which will be another massive test in itself."