Gloucester to reward kings of the contact
BREAKDOWN supremo Matt Cox will thank his tackle-area technique when he tucks into a slap-up meal for two – all courtesy of Gloucester Rugby.
The 24-year-old openside flanker (above) has scooped the club's first monthly award for breakdown acumen.
Gloucester boss Nigel Davies' new initiative will see a Cherry and Whites player win a meal for two worth up to £100 every month, funded by the club.
Muscular centre Billy Twelvetrees pushed loose forward Cox all the way, with Huia Edmonds, Pete Buxton and Rob Cook all meriting special mention.
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But former Worcester battler Cox has claimed the inaugural crown – with Davies impressed by Gloucester's overall contact-area standards.
Rugby director Davies explained: "We spend a lot of time analysing the contact area and the work the players do around there, and we've made no secret of the fact we want that to be a real area of strength for us this season.
"We want to be among the very best in the league on that front.
"And as part of that we've started awarding a monthly prize to the player who turns out to be the best performer in that area.
"We'd whittled the shortlist down from six or seven to a top three, and in the end the winner for this month was Matt Cox.
"So he'll be having a meal out for two, up to the value of £100, which will be donated by the club."
Hailing Gloucester's general work over the ball at the tackle, Davies said it is an area that can often determine the outcome of top-level contests.
He continued: "It's reemphasising the focus we put on that area really, and we'll be running that competition every month.
"The stats have been fantastic in terms of what we've been looking at.
"In the end it was slightly subjective because it was so tight, so it came down to the coaches' vote.
"Hopefully now this is just another little incentive that will keep players fighting hard in this area, and showing how important we view it to be to our overall game."
Meanwhile Davies said he is making good progress in the minefield of tying up new contracts for his 20 players whose current deals expire this summer.
He added: "The fact we've promoted ourselves has maybe created more of a shop window in the early part of the season.
"There's a few players attracting the attention of other clubs' scouts and agents, and that's putting a bit of pressure on.
"But in the large part a lot of the players I've spoken to want to stay at Gloucester and that's important.
"The environment is important, and sometimes the performances are a reflection of that as well.
"If we keep playing well that will interest others, but it will also hopefully make our players want to stay."