Gloucester Rugby: We must put down marker against Sarries
RESURGENT Gloucester must challenge the Premiership pecking order this season, believes Nigel Davies.
The Gloucester boss has called on his men to build on their strong start to the league campaign and start chipping away at the established Premiership power structures.
The Cherry and Whites sit third in the table after nine matches – level on points with second-placed Saracens and one point shy of leaders Harlequins.
Only points-difference puts Saracens ahead of rugby director Davies' men – and the two sides meet at Vicarage Road on Sunday (kick-off 3pm).
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Former Wales centre Davies has never made any grand predictions for Gloucester's season but he has put no limits on their progress either.
As far as the Kingsholm boss is concerned, nothing has changed – but he does admit his men have a good platform to start muscling in on the recent successes enjoyed by the likes of Saracens, Harlequins and Leicester.
Gloucester's 29-3 Sale victory on Saturday was their sixth in nine league clashes so far this term.
Reflecting on his side's strong start, Davies explained: "There's a long way to go but we're pleased with where we are, there's a traditional hierarchy but we'd like to think we can challenge that.
"But there's a lot of work to do to make that happen.
"It's a massive test for us against Saracens, and that's the kind of game we need to take points from if we are going to challenge the established powers in the way we want to.
"So we're not going to make big pronouncements about what we're going to do, but hopefully we can just quietly tick along and keep improving."
Gloucester demolished the Sale scrum on Saturday, winning more than ten penalties and a penalty try from their all-conquering set-piece.
Hailing scrum coach Tony Windo's first-class work, Davies said Gloucester have three entire front-rows capable of causing Premiership mayhem.
While Nick Wood and Dan Murphy have been battling it out at loosehead prop for the most part, Yann Thomas has impressed in European and LV=Cup action.
Huia Edmonds and Darren Dawidiuk might be the frontline hookers, but Koree Britton and Tommaso D'Apice have both established themselves too.
And at tighthead Rupert Harden and Shaun Knight are locked in an intriguing selection battle, with Dario Chistolini resurgent in recent weeks too.
Impressed Davies said that serious strength in depth is allowing Gloucester to use their scrummage as a real match-winning weapon – something he admitted he never really had in his armoury at the Scarlets.
He continued: "At this moment in time we've not only got one front-row – we've got three.
"The guys who came on brought the same level of intensity and effort to that area.
"It's not something I'm used to having in a scrum, and it's challenging my philosophy on rugby!
"And it's great.
"Tony Windo is doing a great job individually with all these props, and their technique is improving week by week.
"And as a unit we've got real confidence and belief in what we can do now.
"It's fantastic to see that success.
"To be able to bring three fresh front-row forwards off the bench in the second half of matches is huge for us."