Gloucester Rugby: Young stars have earned the shirts
GLOUCESTER'S emerging youngsters have earned the right to be considered for the LV=Cup visit of London Welsh tomorrow, admits forwards coach Carl Hogg.
With a number of first-team regulars returning to contention this week, Hogg says the squad that performed against Ospreys and Fiji have fought their way into the coaches' thoughts.
Aviva Premiership action is resumed again next Saturday with the visit of Sale, with players who have been rested in this last fortnight needing match minutes under their belts.
But such was the impression that the emerging bunch have made on the coaching staff, Hogg says that competition for places is now as strong as ever.
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"There is a lot of the group that lost on Friday night and won against Fiji on Tuesday who are putting their hands up for selection this weekend," said Hogg.
"That is what you want as a coaching group, you want competition for places and Nigel (Davies) is very keen on looking at young people and developing young people in a squad.
"Young people will get opportunities to step up and in the last couple of games there have been opportunities there and most of them have come out very favourably.
"Fiji gave us an opportunity for us to have a look at some of the younger members of the squad and I thought they excelled in the first half.
"The LV= Cup is a very important competition for us, we won it a couple of seasons ago, but we also recognise that the season is a long season.
"For some of our players playing in the front line in the Premiership, we have used this window as an opportunity to freshen them up.
"We expect them to come in this weekend and we expect them to be re-energised and we're looking forward to good performances.
"We always planned to manage the squad and take them out of some of the games to freshen up.
"They have worked really hard with the strength and conditioning department so it is not as if they have had a complete rest.
"They have still been psychically challenged, they just have not had the attritional nature of games.
"They have trained very hard and hopefully they will be re-energised for the weekend."
The Gloucester scrum came in for particular praise this week after being the source of the comeback against Fiji on Tuesday night.
Hogg says the performances of props Yann Thomas, Dan Murphy and Dario Chistolini plus hookers Koree Britton and Tommaso D'Apice have strengthened the front row unit further.
Behind them in the second row, Hartpury locks Elliott Stooke, Will Graulich and Harry Casson have also given them other options with Jim Hamilton away with Scotland and Alex Brown injured.
Hogg knows Welsh will pose a big test up front in the forwards and is pleased to have so many options to choose from for the important Cup clash.
"We are very fortunate in that we could almost pick three front rows and that is great testament to the work of the front row forwards that played against Fiji or Ospreys," he said.
"We have given young fellas an opportunity and had a look at them and they have played very well.
"We have one or two injuries around the second row so the young lads will get opportunity to stick their hands up and it is positive in that department.
"There are one or two positions that we are wary of and there are one or two positions where we are a bit light.
"We have young players coming through who have now shown that they can step up."