Gloucester Rugby: Who will wear the captain's armband?
AN EXTENDED captaincy audition will bring the best out of Gloucester's frontline leaders, believes boss Nigel Davies.
Tom Savage remains the clear favourite to replace Jim Hamilton as Kingsholm club captain, after leading the Cherry and Whites in Friday's 42-17 Toulon defeat.
The 24-year-old back-five forward has won the respect of his Gloucester peers through mixing industry and ingenuity in equal measure.
But if Savage is to assume the armband from Montpellier-bound Hamilton, he will have to wait a little longer for the confirmation.
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Rugby director Davies admits he is closing in on a captaincy call, as he mulls over the varied permutations for the season ahead.
But the former Wales centre sees no reason to rush into finalising his decision.
New recruit James Hudson has plenty of leadership experience from his captaincy stint at Newcastle Falcons.
Loosehead prop Nick Wood has deputised when required in his time, and has been around the block long enough to step in without fuss.
Worcester capture Matt Kvesic has already been identified by Gloucester as a natural leader, though Davies is unlikely to overload the new openside flanker.
Freddie Burns and Billy Twelvetrees both wield great influence in guiding Gloucester's backline.
But Gloucester may be reluctant to hand the full-time skipper's role to those with increasingly regular England commitments.
Pleased with his options, Davies explained: "I'm pretty clear in my own mind how things are progressing with the captaincy.
"Sav did a good job on Friday, he was very positive throughout, both in the build-up and afterwards.
"He's one guy that everyone looks up to, because of the effort he puts in.
"We're looking at a few of the guys, and we're going to see how they go.
"There's no undue pressure to make an immediate decision, especially as there are a number of players who can easily do that job extremely well.
"So it's a case of determining the best scenario for the club from every aspect.
"The main positive aspect is that we have a number of options, so all those guys will play an important leadership role, regardless of who eventually takes the overall captaincy role.
"You've got to have natural leaders through the spine of your team, and I'm confident we have what we need in that respect."
Savage becoming club captain this year would only further cement his remarkable Kingsholm rise.
The former Bishop's Castle RFC man did not start regular rugby until he was 16.
But within five years he had secured a senior contract at Gloucester.
From rugby novice to Premiership club captain in seven years would be some catapult, by any standard.
Savage arrived at Hartpury College nearly six years ago, shrugging off his lack of schools rugby pedigree to force his way into the Saturday club side through sheer graft and guts.
While Hartpury RFC captain, Savage kept on nagging then-Gloucester boss Bryan Redpath to let him train with the senior Cherry and Whites.
Shropshire-raised Savage secured a university holiday job painting a college bar at Hartpury, just so he could be on hand for extra training sessions.
Redpath needed little convincing Savage was the real deal, and Davies likewise when he arrived last summer.
Savage has handled every big challenge with assurance to date: there is no reason why he could not add the Kingsholm captaincy to that list.
Who do you think should wear the armband? Let us know in the comment box below.