Gloucester's Akapusi Qera relishing battle with 'physical' Chiefs
BULLISH Akapusi Qera has called on Gloucester to lay down a challenge to Exeter and prove the Cherry and Whites can be the most physical side in the Premiership.
The barnstorming Fijian flanker said Exeter can claim the title of the league's most aggressive team all they want – but they will come up against a severe test of their mettle at Kingsholm tomorrow (kick-off 3pm).
Gloucester sit fifth in the Premiership, one place and one point ahead of the Chiefs.
Victory over Rob Baxter's resolute men could catapult Gloucester into the top-four, and create daylight between the two West Country rivals.
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Redoubtable Fiji marauder Qera is excited by squaring up to Exeter's fearsome reputation, and is confident Gloucester can emerge the right side of one of their toughest battles this term.
The 28-year-old explained: "They rate themselves as the most physical pack in the Premiership. Well, when they come down to Kingsholm we'll stand up and lay down the challenge to them, and we'll see who is the most physical at the end of the day.
"It's good to test ourselves in these big games.
"It's man-to-man in rugby, that's how the game always is and always will be, and we just need to enjoy that, revel in it, and hopefully come off on the right side of that.
"The confidence has been high in all the players, coming in and coming out of the side, and the rotation policy is good for the club as a whole."
Barnstorming Qera has now spent five years at Gloucester after one standout season in England's second tier with Birmingham and Solihull.
A firm Kingsholm fixture, the softly-spoken but hard-hitting loose forward is relishing life under new rugby director Nigel Davies.
Qera turned down autumn international action with Fiji in order to cement his place in the Gloucester pecking order under new boss Davies earlier this term.
An injury crisis forced his recall for Fiji's Twickenham clash with England, that the hosts won 54-12, but after that brief absence he has continued to terrorise opponents with and without the ball for Gloucester.
Enjoying being part of Gloucester's back-row ball-carrying revolution alongside the likes of Sione Kalamafoni and Ben Morgan, Qera said the Cherry and Whites can still take that thunderous side of their game to even greater levels.
He continued: "It's been great playing alongside some good players in the forwards, especially given the backline we've got to finish off the chances.
"But it's totally up to the players out there to stand up and make a name for themselves, and especially perform for the fans and the management.
"We can work off each other a lot and feed off each other once we get into our stride, if we get in behind teams then we can really exploit that.
"We've got some top finishers in the club and as a forward pack that's what you want.
"It's up to us to graft out the half-chances through hard work, and the backs to convert them.
"The challenge is to keep that kind of ball-carrying style going up front.
"And that's really enjoyable to be a part of that.
"Hopefully that carries on this weekend and into next year too.
"It's been really enjoyable this year under Nigel and the new coaches, I think the set-up has been good and the players are loving it and I think they are showing on the field how much they love playing for the club."
Labelling last weekend's Amlin Challenge Cup 47-3 London Irish hammering as irrelevant, Qera added: "Last week doesn't really have any bearing on tomorrow.
"We've still got to go back to the drawing board, because there were a few mistakes last week.
"Had we cut those out we could have capitalised on a few more chances, and scored some more points.
"We know that Exeter will pounce on mistakes too, so it should be a great game this weekend."