Gloucester Rugby: It's one down but three to come - Nick Wood
PIVOTAL Northampton victory tees up the chance for a play-off tilt – but the job is only a quarter done, calls Nick Wood.
Gloucester's loosehead prop reckons it is all very well the Cherry and Whites believing in their top-four potential – but now they have to prove it.
Nigel Davies' men take on Wasps at Adams Park on Sunday (kick-of 1pm), in the second of four vital consecutive Premiership clashes.
The Kingsholm men will then host Worcester on Friday, February 22, before taking on Bath a week later at The Rec.
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Scrummaging cornerstone Wood hailed Saturday's 27-11 triumph at Franklin's Gardens, but called on the Cherry and Whites not to let their hard-fought return to form slip away.
The 30-year-old explained: "We've set the standard for this group of four games.
"At the same time, when we were sat in the Northampton changing room at half-time, we were only halfway through this match.
"And now we are only a quarter of the way through our biggest challenge of the season so far.
"At half-time at Northampton we knew the job was only half-done, if that.
"Now we know the job is not even a quarter complete, with what's coming next.
"We've started on a great note, but because of that there's no point whatsoever in going to Wasps and letting ourselves down next week.
"If we really are good enough for the top four, then we'll prove it in this month."
The last time Gloucester won back-to-back away league matches, they saw off first Wasps then Northampton – en route to the 2011 Premiership play-offs.
Wood admits the Cherry and Whites may well need to repeat that feat now, but the other way around, in order to propel themselves to another top-four regular-season finish.
Wasps sit fourth in the Premiership, one place and two points ahead of Gloucester.
The Kingsholm men leapfrogged Northampton last week, and intend on doing a similar number on Wasps on Sunday.
The London-based club that play their matches in Buckinghamshire are embroiled in yet more financial trouble.
Twice this season the Wasps squad has been paid late, and despite constant talk of new investment, nothing has yet materialised.
Amid the maelstrom though, boss Dai Young and his players have kept their counsel – and rocketed up the table.
The uncertain outlook seems to have had a galvanising effect on the Wasps players.
But Wood said none of that will colour Sunday's crucial clash.
He continued: "The stuff off the field is irrelevant for us, it's all about what happens on the field on Sunday lunchtime.
"They're a tough team and deservedly in fourth position now.
"They deserve to be where they are.
"It's two away games back to back, we've got to get that mentality right again.
"We've got an extra day turnaround, so an extra day to recover, but we've got to work just as hard again this week in order to be in the right frame of mind and physicality."
Wood puts Gloucester's quick turnaround at Northampton after 32-5 Bath humiliation down to a return to greater physicality in training – especially in the scrum.
Hailing new recruit Lua Lokotui's 'outstanding' performance at the Saints, Wood said Gloucester must produce an immediate repeat this weekend.
He added: "Everyone was battered after that game.
"The bumps and bruises are a lot easier to bear when you've got a good victory like that.
"We didn't give a fair reflection of ourselves against Bath, so we worked hard in the week, bashed each other about then had a couple of days to rest up and that paid off.
"We probably stepped away from doing the hard work in the week, so last week we went back to live scrums and that helped us through a few technical issues with our timing and coordination as an eight.
"It was an amazing defensive performance, particularly Tom Savage, Sione Kalamafoni, Mike Tindall.
"And the guys out wide did well too – we almost nullified them in the backline.
"Lua was behind me in the scrum and that's the first time we'd played together.
"He was outstanding, giving me everything I wanted in the scrum and it helped me do my job.
"Then around the pitch his work ethic was fantastic.
"The fact he gelled so quickly with the team it's a massive compliment to him as a player.
"He's an outstanding recruit."