Everyone in squad improving turnover skills – Robson
ONCE the preserve of the foraging openside flanker, ball-stealing turnover skills are increasingly prevalent across the rugby spectrum.
Gloucester's concerted breakdown focus under Nigel Davies has aimed to turn the Cherry and Whites into one of the most stubborn tackle-area teams around.
Perhaps even 15 years ago, asking a scrum-half to scavenge over the ball like a seven might have seemed extreme.
But now Kingsholm half-back Dan Robson believes it is a vital skill for every top-flight competitor – and he reckons Gloucester are all the more robust because of it.
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Expecting a titanic tackle-area tussle against the Ospreys at Liberty Field tomorrow night (kick-off 7.45pm), Robson is confident Gloucester can match up to their imposing hosts.
The 20-year-old said: "We've made no secret of targeting the breakdown this year, and we know that Ospreys will bring a lot of physicality to that area, because they are power there too.
"So it will be interesting because it will be a big breakdown battle.
"We're confident that if we stick to our stuff we can be successful.
"Every player has to be strong over the ball now, it's not just something that's limited to the back-row and centres.
"We've worked very hard on that since pre-season, to make sure we make good progress there.
"It definitely helps improve your all-round game to have those kinds of skills.
"When it works properly then we have a team full of guys who can fight hard for the ball there and win turnovers."
Robson started the season battling with Dave Lewis for Gloucester's nine shirt.
All Black World Cup winner Jimmy Cowan's arrival has bolstered that contest, as has the signing of 27-year-old Brad Field, dual-registered with Hartpury RFC.
No sooner had Cowan arrived, he was offering hints and tips to his fellow scrum-halves.
And Robson is keen to keep picking his brains.
He said: "That learning process started even in the first few days that he arrived.
"At the start of the season it was just me and Davey, so Jimmy's arrival really helps with stability for the squad, and it's the same with Brad too.
"Jimmy will help you whenever you want, he will sit down and work on things with you, and that's exactly what we want from someone like that."
Robson set Gloucester away for their last-gasp field-length score in last weekend's 28-25 Premiership defeat at Harlequins.
The England Under-20s graduate said Davies' men must channel their increasingly stern spirit once again this weekend.
He said: "Even before that chance last week I'd said to Freddie if we get anything we're going, because we had to get a try.
"We had that chance, and we didn't waste it.
"We gave ourselves a chance by the way we approached things, and that determination underpins everything we do this year.
"We don't give up, we don't just let other teams bowl us over, so we're really pleased with that aspect.
"There were plenty of positive aspects from the game, but in saying that we didn't play nearly as well as we'd hoped.
"We've got plenty to work on and we've got to push hard now.
"We've targeted each tournament in its own way, and we don't want to just target one tournament and leave the other two.
"Ospreys on a Friday night, it's on TV, it's England versus Wales – there's plenty of motivation.
"But any time anyone puts on that Gloucester shirt, they know what they have to do, so that is still the biggest driving force for us.
"It's a different challenge taking on a Welsh side, but one we're looking forward to."