Gloucester Rugby: 'My pal Locke will make step up'
ELUSIVE runner Drew Locke can spring a Premiership surprise with his try-scoring exploits, believes old school mate Dan Murphy.
Gloucester's new centre recruit Locke will go straight into the start of pre-season training on Monday, after joining Kingsholm from Cornish Pirates.
The 25-year-old spent time in the Northampton Saints Academy before representing England Students while at Northumbria University.
The wily centre has shone at the Pirates in the last two years after stints at Coventry and Exeter.
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Now Gloucester are hoping he can transfer his stealth running to the top flight.
Kingsholm loosehead prop Murphy has been close friends with Locke ever since the pair attended St Joseph's College, Ipswich.
Former London Irish front-rower Murphy has helped Locke settle in Cheltenham – and is confident the new midfielder can have a big Kingsholm impact.
Romford-born Murphy reckons Locke can mirror the Harlequins success of England Saxons centre Matt Hopper.
Locke and Hopper shared outside centre duties at the Pirates in 2010-11.
Hopper caught the eye so often at Quins last term that he won a place in England's second-string squad.
Murphy believes they are players of similar standard and quality – and he has backed Locke to follow Hopper's tracks.
Murphy explained: "I went to school with Drew, so I've known him for a long time and we've stayed in touch all through as we're good friends.
"And he's a very talented player, and I think he will definitely be able to make a success of the step up to Premiership level, and to playing at Gloucester.
"He shared the outside centre role with Matt Hopper last season at Cornish Pirates, and he's a similar type of player.
"And I think it's been clear to everyone just how well Hopper has done at Harlequins this season, forcing his way into the side that's top of the league regularly and winning a call-up to England Saxons.
"Drew is a very jinky player, he's very quick, he has a good eye for a gap and he knows how to score tries.
"I think he's going to move in down the road from us, and it will be great having someone I've known for so long and so well living so close and playing at the club too."
New strength and conditioning boss Paddy Anson will put the Gloucester squad through their first official pre-season action on Monday.
The Cherry and Whites underwent fitness testing on Thursday, and will now quicken the pace of their initial preparations for the forthcoming campaign.
New rugby director Nigel Davies has been working away behind the scenes to pull together his new-look backroom staff, aiming to make additions to forwards coach Carl Hogg.
Murphy is excited by the host of new talent on show at Kingsholm, with the likes of Ben Morgan, Jimmy Cowan and Billy Twelvetrees all expected to play pivotal roles this year.
Murphy added: "There's some big characters, quality players and long-serving club men leaving this summer, and it will be a big change.
"But we have a very powerful squad for next year, and hopefully we can make that count.
"We've got a great squad of players for the new season, and that's going to be pretty exciting I think.
"It's great as a group that we can already know what's happening on that front and feel pretty secure in ourselves despite what's happening with the coaching situation.
"There's some very talented players coming in, and we're all very excited to get working with them, and to gel as a unit now that pre-season has come around."