WEST Country derby victory can springboard Gloucester back into a crucial Premiership sequence – but only if the Cherry and Whites forget all about the league for the weekend.
That’s the view of forwards coach Carl Hogg, who has called on Gloucester to kick-start top form in tomorrow’s LV=Cup clash against Bath at Kingsholm (kick-off 2pm).
Gloucester cannot qualify for the LV=Cup semi-finals – but Hogg said derby pride and the carrot of a pivotal upcoming league run offers more than enough motivation this weekend.
Fit-again Rupert Harden returns for his first Gloucester action since December 15, easing the Kingsholm club’s tigthead prop problem.
Shaun Knight is not fit to play, but should be ready for next weekend’s Premiership trip to Northampton.
Gloucester face a vital four-match Premiership run after Saturday’s Bath clash that will make or break their play-off chances – and Hogg said it is imperative the Cherry and Whites hit form tomorrow.
He explained: “We want to springboard forward into the Premiership games – but at the same time this is a standalone and special fixture.
“Regardless of the cup or the league, this is important.
“They will bring a strong side and it will be a big challenge for us.
“Plus we cannot get that springboard we’re after without a good performance against Bath anyway.
“Our emotion was outstanding last week, but our accuracy was not good enough and we’ve got to get that right this week, to get the performance we want.”
Gloucester field a strong team for tomorrow’s clash, with Rob Cook, Charlie Sharples and Jimmy Cowan returning in the backline.
Huia Edmonds, Tom Savage and Sione Kalamafoni come back in up front, and Hogg expects the intensity to be unchecked.
He continued: “It’s a very special fixture, wherever it is held and whatever rides on it.
“It’s a chance for us to springboard forward into the league a week later, and we’re looking forward to it.
“More than 12,000 tickets have been sold, it will be a great atmosphere and we’re excited by this traditional rivalry.
“Bath are a very good side that have been playing very well recently, so we’ll have to be at the top of our game to come out with a win.”
GLOUCESTER: R Cook, C Sharples, M Tindall (capt), T Molenaar, S Monahan, R Mills, J Cowan, D Murphy, H Edmonds, R Harden, T Savage, L Lokotui, P Buxton, A Hazell, S Kalamafoni. Replacements: D Dawidiuk, Y Thomas, T Heard, A Qera, G Evans, D Robson, B Burns, M Thomas.