Gloucester Rugby: Dave Lewis to seize his opportunity
DAVE Lewis is determined to give Nigel Davies no choice but to keep him in Gloucester's line-up – starting in Mont de Marsan tonight.
The 23-year-old scrum-half missed out on Saturday's 16-10 Bath victory, thanks to All Black Jimmy Cowan's arrival.
Despite impressing so far this term, Lewis sat on the bench behind Dan Robson for the first five Premiership clashes – then suffered the tight call of making way for new recruit Cowan.
Gloucester boss Davies promised Lewis a start in tonight's Amlin Challenge Cup opener when he omitted him from the West Country derby.
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Lewis admitted that softened the blow, but only slightly – and now he is ready to seize his chance at Stade Guy Boniface (kick-off 7.30pm UK time).
He explained: "I felt I've played well all season, and Nigel and Tinds (Mike Tindall) have backed that up as well.
"So I was bitterly disappointed not to have played in the Bath match, with it being our big derby and everything that goes with it.
"But to be fair Nigel was great about it all, he said I would be playing against Mont de Marsan and so I've just kept hold of that.
"We've got a strong side going out there, with a definite gameplan, and it's exciting to get stuck into it.
"It will be great to start a game, get out there and hopefully continue what we've been doing so far this season.
"I don't want to be left out ever: I'm not going to lie!
"It was a bitter pill to swallow but at the same time you've just got to get on with it.
"I do understand it and appreciate Nigel's position though, and now I'm excited by this chance.
"So having the opportunity this week, I'll try to make the most of that tonight.
"The competition is fierce, but it's very positive too.
"Jimmy has helped out me and Dan loads already, and he's only been here a week.
"So Dan and I are keen to learn from him, but hopefully we can keep him honest too and push him all the way: it's up to us to keep playing well when we do get our chances."
Tim Molenaar and Tim Taylor win first starts this term in the backline tonight, while up front Yann Thomas and Koree Britton follow suit.
Strapping Academy lock Elliott Stooke takes a seat on the bench, with Matt Cox and fit-again Andy Hazell slotting into the back-row.
Heading a nucleus of players primed to seize their moment, Lewis said Gloucester will be mindful of their trip to Agen two years ago.
Leading 13-3 at the break at Stade Armandie, Gloucester slipped up 26-19 with Mike Tindall and Pete Buxton suffering costly yellow cards.
Just as Agen were bottom of the French Top 14 at that point, so Mont de Marsan prop up their league now – and Lewis said the Cherry and Whites must be wary of their foes.
He continued: "In all fairness the whole squad's playing well, Nigel appreciates that and that's what's giving him a lot of selection headaches.
"All the players who haven't had maybe as much game time as they would want or like, this is their chance now. This is not a second team, they can all interchange with the players who have been starting so far.
"And this is our chance to help take the team and squad to the next level.
"The shirt's ours now, and the other players have got to try to take it off us, and that's what we've been talking about in training this week.
"We know all too well we cannot expect to turn up and get the job done just like that.
"We went to Agen two years ago, they were bottom of the league, and turned us over.
"We know exactly what will be waiting for us over there.
"They will be exceptionally tough, especially at home.
"They're a big physical side with strong runners, so we'll have our work cut out in defence.
"But then it's up to us to open them up in attack."
Expecting to draw on Gloucester's powerful turnover work once again, Lewis said strong defence will be vital.
He added: "It's been one of the reasons why we've got the results we have, the work Paul Moriarty's been doing is really paying off.
"Our defence is strong, especially in the scramble side of things.
"We still want to tighten up elements, but certainly at the breakdown we've been up there among the best in the league, and that's something we're definitely looking to keep pushing forward.
"That breakdown work has really helped us win games and get out of games."
GLOUCESTER: M Thomas, C Sharples, T Molenaar, M Tindall (capt), I Clark, T Taylor, D Lewis, Y Thomas, K Britton, S Knight, P Buxton, W James, M Cox, A Hazell, S Kalamafoni. Replacements: T d'Apice, N Wood, D Chistolini, E Stooke, G Evans, J Cowan, H Trinder, B Twelvetrees.