Two weeks to formulate Gloucester plan for the rest of the season, says Nick Wood
GLOUCESTER have two weeks to get their gameplan in order – to set themselves on course for the business end of the season, admits Nick Wood.
The Cherry and Whites switch to LV=Cup action on Saturday, taking on Northampton Saints at Franklin's Gardens (kick-off 3pm).
Nigel Davies' side then host West Country rivals Bath at Kingsholm a week later to complete their pool stage Anglo-Welsh Cup fixtures.
A critical month of Premiership action will then follow, Gloucester travelling to Northampton, Wasps and Bath, as well as hosting Worcester Warriors.
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And with the Amlin Challenge Cup quarter-final against Biarritz now coming up in April, loosehead prop Wood said Gloucester cannot afford to waste any more time in their search for a balanced approach.
Powerful prop Wood has been called into the England Saxons squad ahead of Friday night's clash against Irish Wolfhounds in Galway (7.35pm) – but his mind remains firmly on Gloucester's pivotal fixtures ahead.
Looking forward to that Biarritz Amlin Challenge Cup quarter-final, Wood explained: "We know that we can rise to the occasion and that's the challenge.
"So it will be great to take on one of the top teams around.
"We did get dragged into a loose game against Mont de Marsan, and that was something that shouldn't have happened.
"There are certain games you've got to aim towards, and focus on – but at the same time without neglecting what's in front of you.
"Players who haven't played that much recently have a chance to come back in and show what they can do in the next two weeks in the LV=Cup, so it's going to be massive for them.
"So it's key that we carry on building momentum.
"But we've also got two weeks to get our game together before we return to the league.
"It's still about striving to hit the top gear by the time we get back to the Premiership and certainly when we get back to this competition.
"You can almost try too hard.
"You know what needs to happen, but the more you force it the less sometimes it comes together.
"So in some instances it's certainly about relaxing.
"We don't want to stray too far from our forward-based game, even though we're trying to expand.
"You've always got to show respect to the opposition, by attacking in a direct fashion first, to open teams up."
Gloucester's five-try 36-16 Mont de Marsan victory on Saturday tied up the home quarter-final against Biarritz, who drop down from the Heineken Cup.
Despite several questionable incidents from the visitors, Gloucester kept their cool – and Wood said that resolve proved the best way to lend support to flanker Andy Hazell.
Hazell was banned for 14 weeks for a flurry of punches in Gloucester's 11-6 victory at Mont de Marsan in October.
The 34-year-old flanker claimed he was the subject of eye gouging from the home side, sparking his furious reaction.
But European Rugby Cup discipline bosses brought no action against anyone from Mont de Marsan.
Gloucester boss Davies was frustrated with two alleged kicks to the head suffered by Shaun Knight in Saturday's win, and the Cherry and Whites have lodged a complaint with the citing commissioner.
Now 30-year-old Wood hopes the European bosses will take action.
He continued: "We were pleased to get the job done at the weekend, and more so that whatever happened out there our lads kept their heads.
"It was always going to be a tough game, but then you throw in what happened out there and they were never going to roll over.
"There was every possibility that something would happen again, and I'm sure there were a couple of incidents where our players were provoked, but there was no retaliation.
"All we can hope now is that, through the proper channels, it is deal with.
"In some way the fact the lads kept their heads is some kind of vindication for Hazey, in the sense that if there was stuff picked up the fact the boys didn't retaliate should mean that justice will be served."