Nigel Davies: 'If you don't like scrums go and watch rugby league'
MASTERY of the murky waters must come before scintillating shows of running rugby, believes Nigel Davies.
Armchair viewers and television pundits can call for flowing spectacles all they want – but Gloucester boss Davies said for the time being the Cherry and Whites will focus on dominating the game's dirtier elements.
While the Kingsholm men battle for fluency in attack, rugby director Davies said he is more than happy for his men to employ bludgeon, nous and guile in spades to win bruising Premiership encounters.
Frustrations abound at Kingsholm that the Cherry and Whites' usual attacking acumen has yet to be discovered this season.
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But Davies said he always expected some attacking elements to take time to develop.
During that phase, he said bossing the breakdown and the set-piece can allow his team time to hit their front-foot straps in their wide game.
Calling for patience against Wasps this afternoon (kick-off 3.15pm), Davies explained: "We spoke after the Worcester draw and this week about frustration, and that's the biggest issue we've got.
"There's a time and a place to tear into the players, but this group of players, at this moment in time, are giving everything they've got to give.
"And I said as far as I'm concerned, these are my issues that I've got to deal with, and we'll deal with them together.
"As long as they give me 100 per cent I'm happy. We'd far rather be in that position than playing great-looking rugby that lacked heart.
"The scrum and the contact area, I'm really happy in.
"Some of the dark arts of the game, we're working very hard to get them right, and the rest of it will come."
Davies said focusing on rugby's chokehold elements was always initial priority – because without dominating the dust-ups at the scrum and the tackle area, no side thrives.
ESPN pundit and former Leicester Tiger Austin Healey had some choice words about Gloucester's backline skills after last week's 16-16 Worcester draw.
While Davies said he did not argue with Healey's assessment, he felt it glossed over much of his side's good points.
The former Wales centre said he is happy for Gloucester to keep navigating around the backline's short-term shortcomings.
Gloucester forced 11 turnovers at the tackle area against Worcester last week – so however many mistimed runs or misplaced passes behind the scrum, he said some elements are in fine order.
He continued: "I spoke to a pundit after Worcester who was quite keen to tell me how dreadful the game was, talking about the quality of the passing and the handling, and I couldn't argue.
"But the fact is rugby union is different and if all you want to see is passing, then maybe go and watch rugby league.
"Union is about the contact area, it is about scrums, it is about lineouts, it's not only about passing the ball, you have to be proficient in all those skills.
"There's various different ways to start from scratch, but we've approached it from building from set-piece, tight game and the breakdown first.
"We wanted to get a good foundation to build our game off, and that revolves around the contact area and the set-piece.
"And our scrum's been magnificent this year.
"It's been a real step-up for us, and I hope it will be a big weapon for us again at the weekend.
"So to have that confidence in a key area of the game, plus the contact area, it's huge for us.
"And we're very resilient, we don't give up, we keep going at sides and those finer things will come with time.
"The contact area has been great so far: it's not something that stands out for those who love the open-play rugby, but it's a key factor.
"Worcester wasn't a great spectacle to watch, no one has hidden from that, and we've worked hard all week to make sure we can be better with and without the ball, and more fluent all round.
"We have to have a lot of energy and intensity early on, to get ourselves into positions to exploit those wide-open spaces.
"Now we can hopefully add the next layer onto our game."
GLOUCESTER: R Cook, J May, H Trinder, B Twelvetrees, J Simpson-Daniel, F Burns, D Robson, N Wood, D Dawidiuk, R Harden, T Savage, J Hamilton (capt), S Kalamafoni, A Hazell, B Morgan. Replacements: H Edmonds, D Murphy, S Knight, W James, A Qera, D Lewis, M Tindall, M Thomas.
WASPS: T Bell, T Varndell, E Daly, A Masi, C Wade, S Jones, J Simpson, T Payne, TR Thomas, Z Taulafo, T Palmer, M Wentzel (capt), J Haskell, J Poff, A Johnson. Replacements: T Lindsay, S McIntyre, F Staibano, J Cannon, B Vunipola, C Davies, N Robinson, J Wallace.