'INSPIRED signing' Paddy Anson sets the tone that can help Gloucester come through one of their toughest tests of the season, believes Nigel Davies.
Cherry and Whites boss Davies rates work-rate, intensity and work-ethic the three most vital attributes that can spur Gloucester to victory over regimented Exeter Chiefs on Saturday.
The Kingsholm rugby director has put his charges through two arduous days' training in the middle of this week, to leave them in no doubt what is required against the Chiefs.
Exeter will pitch up for Saturday's Premiership clash at Kingsholm (kick-off 3pm) intent on extending their seven-match unbeaten run in all competitions.
But Gloucester are confident they can mastermind a crucial win – with a little help from one of the Chiefs' former backroom staff mainstays.
John Brain and Bryan Redpath convinced former Royal Marine Anson to make the switch from Exeter for the start of this term's pre-season.
Davies arrived from Llanelli Scarlets after Anson had already started work at Kingsholm.
But if he was nervous about the new conditioning specialists' methods, he admitted any worries were almost immediately allayed.
And now he is confident Anson can become a Kingsholm cornerstone.
Davies explained: "Paddy's very influential, a lot of the work that we do on the conditioning side is very competitive, very engaging, it's different all the time and that variation keeps things fresh.
"It challenges the boys differently, so that's been great, and that sets the tone really.
"He's one of the crucial parts of what we're trying to achieve.
"Paddy was obviously employed before me, so I was a bit nervous having not met him before.
"But he's proved an inspired signing; he's an integral part of the team and a very important part of everything we do.
"As the conditioner he probably spends more time with the players than anybody else, and to have that level of energy and enthusiasm bubbling through the players coming into the rugby environment is great.
"And the other thing we're mindful of is how we structure our weeks to keep our players fresh.
"Last week was a light week, a very light week, we only trained a day and a half really in terms of on the field.
"This week is different – much heavier, a lot more physical, and that's based on our planning but also being able to adapt to how players are feeling and how hard they're working and also the team we're playing.
"This week is very much a work-focused week because that's the mindset we need to take into this game."
Anson spent six years in the Marines before switching to a career in sports science.
The taskmaster coach was an integral part of homespun Exeter's rise to Premiership success under boss Rob Baxter.
The Chiefs' zeal and aggressive, organised approach won many plaudits across the Premiership.
Anson's initiative was central to that progress, and Gloucester brought him to Kingsholm with the express purpose of instilling the same attitude.
Davies said Anson has been able to do just that – but admitted the hard work is only just beginning.
He added: "We've been putting the players through two very tough days, yesterday and today this week, because work-rate and intensity will be vital against Exeter.
"They are very physical, very committed and extremely organised.
"If we don't produce the right work-rate and work-ethic, then we won't put ourselves in the frame.
"Those two elements will be absolutely vital this weekend.
"I've got a lot of respect for Exeter, they have been brilliant in coming through and really establishing themselves.
"But I'd like to think they have respect for us too, and this could be a very tight battle."