Gloucester Rugby: Lua Lokotui is primed for action - Hogg
'EXCEPTIONAL athlete' Lua Lokotui can pack an immediate Gloucester punch, tips Carl Hogg.
The imposing Tongan lock will be pitched straight into Cherry and Whites action in Saturday's LV=Cup clash at Northampton Saints (kick-off 3pm).
The 33-year-old only arrived in the UK on Sunday before starting Gloucester training the following day.
Gloucester's preparations for their Franklin's Gardens trip have been affected by the consistent ice and snow – but only slightly.
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The Cherry and Whites trained at Bromsgrove School on Tuesday, making use of first-class indoor facilities set up by scrum coach Tony Windo who is director of rugby at the school.
Nigel Davies' side were back to their usual Hartpury College base yesterday, and Hogg is confident the Kingsholm men will be ready for their Saints test.
Gloucester must win on Saturday to keep their hopes of qualifying for the LV=Cup semi-finals alive.
Rugby director Davies will mix up selection, handing the likes of Pete Buxton, fit-again Ryan Mills and Andy Hazell – returning after his 14-week ban – chances to impress.
Backing bullish second row Lokotui to settle quickly into Kingsholm life, forwards coach Hogg explained: "Lua's being thrown into the breach at the weekend. Ideally that might not have been the plan, but we've got one or two injuries and it's a good opportunity for him.
"He's an international tournament player so he's a player of experience and authority.
"It will be a big challenge for him, but it's a big challenge for everyone at the weekend.
"I'm sure it's one Lua's looking forward to it, though.
"At this time of the season it's great to have a new injection of blood, to add somebody fresh and new to the team and our organisation, so it just keeps everybody on their toes – coaches, management and players – and it's great to have him involved.
"He's an exceptional athlete, you can see that already through training, and obviously we did our research before Lua came over.
"He's a powerful runner, he's a very good rugby player and I'm sure any of the Scottish boys will ratify that, after Tonga beat Scotland up at Pittodrie recently.
"He's a very good player and we're looking forward to getting him involved.
"He'll take it in his stride, he'll get game time at the weekend, he'll learn more about the way we play the game and we'll learn a lot more about him too.
"Sometimes you can try to drip feed players into the system and then it takes a bit longer, but we've got an opportunity to play him on Saturday.
"And it will be a great chance for both parties to move things forward quickly."
Gloucester's 33-27 defeat at the Ospreys in November means their LV=Cup progression is not totally in their own hands.
Former Scotland back-rower Hogg said the Cherry and Whites will disregard all of that and focus simply on striving for victory in the East Midlands on Saturday.
Beat Northampton, and then Bath at home a week later, and Gloucester will still have a slight chance of making the last four – but Hogg is unfazed by all of that.
He continued: "The most important thing is just to throw everything at winning this game.
"If we show the same levels of commitment and resilience that we've shown all year then I'm sure we'll put in a decent performance.
"It is a huge challenge for some of these developing players but that's exactly what they need.
"It's one the players are looking forward to, and rightly so.
"And we can go up there and have a real crack at them.
"We should have a good mix of experience and youth this weekend and hopefully that will stand us in good stead."