Gloucester Rugby: Davies already making plans for next term
RECRUITMENT starts here: that's the message from Nigel Davies as he plots Gloucester's squad for next season.
The Cherry and Whites rugby director is sinking his teeth into his Kingsholm squad for next term – starting with the battle to retain all the current top talent.
A total of 19 players are out of contract at the end of this campaign.
There is nothing unusual in that, rugby contracts running on one or two-year cycles.
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But the battle to hold on to the most highly-prized assets just gets more and more difficult.
And Gloucester boss Davies knows he must make big strides on that front in a short space of time.
England Saxons flyer Jonny May will be among the most coveted stars in the Premiership this term.
The 22-year-old's current contract expires at the end of the campaign.
Under Premiership rules, contracted players cannot talk new deals with other clubs, nor clubs with potential recruits, until January 1.
But Davies is not about to take that leeway for granted and he believes Gloucester must make quick progress on retention, while also setting up a recruitment blueprint.
Davies explained: "Recruitment starts here really. The first phase is to deal with retention, doing everything we can to hold on to our top stars and arrange new contracts for existing players.
"And then it's about planning for new recruits, and our strategy around that too.
"We needed a good month of the season to get ourselves on to a level course, and hopefully we're now at that stage.
"That ought to give us the opportunity to get our teeth into the retention and recruitment planning."
Reconciling salary cap, squad budget and strength in depth with increased salary expectations of fast-improving stars will be among Davies' chief challenges.
Jonny May is the prime example this term. The 22-year-old's stock has risen considerably since his last contract negotiations.
Rightly he – and a clutch of others – will warrant sizeable increases.
So Davies and the Gloucester board will now start the jigsaw-puzzle process of making everything slot into place.
Fast-improving youngsters like Dan Robson and Tom Savage are also out of contract this term, and no doubt they will also be among the retention priorities.
Testimonial duo Nick Wood and Alex Brown are two more whose deals will be up, with back-row stalwarts Pete Buxton and Andy Hazell in the same position.
Player/coach Mike Tindall signed a one-year deal at the start of the season, so he too is among the 19 in question.
Davies said one of the biggest challenges of planning for next season at such an early stage is the unpredictability of how far certain players will improve during this campaign.
Explaining how strong decisions are not the same as snap judgements, he continued: "It's always a balance, because as I've said before it will take some time for certain players to come through, and for the strongest general line-up to emerge.
"So while in the background you will be working away and doing a lot of planning, as much as possible, you've also got to keep open minds and react to what the guys in the squad are doing and how they are progressing.
"We've got a strong squad and we're very pleased with it, but you always have to be handling this work in the background too."