NIGEL Davies insists Gloucester are on an upward curve – and hopes the Cherry and Whites can catch Northampton heading the other way tomorrow.
Gloucester's rugby director is confident his Kingsholm men have three fruitful years ahead of them, and are only just at the start of their progression.
The former Wales centre also believes tomorrow's Premiership opponents Northampton are years ahead of the Cherry and Whites.
But ex-Llanelli Scarlets boss Davies wonders whether the Saints might just be touching the end of one development cycle – and has challenged his side to take advantage at Franklin's Gardens (kick-off 12.30pm).
Despite several damaging recent defeats – losing at home to London Irish and Bath – Davies still expects to realise the rich potential he sees at Gloucester.
Jim Mallinder has built Northampton into a formidable Premiership power, and Davies knows that is a model to follow.
But he hopes Gloucester can capitalise on a side he considers perhaps in transition, with the likes of Soane Tonga'uiha and Brian Mujati leaving in the summer.
Davies explained: "Jim has done very well at Northampton over the years, albeit without winning a big title that they're so desperate to do.
"They've built up a lot of momentum again this year, and as I said at the start of the season they are probably two or three years ahead of us in terms of their development as a squad.
"But they've got to make sure they haven't peaked.
"We certainly haven't peaked – we've got a long way to go before this team peaks.
"We're on an upward curve.
"There will be setbacks, as we appreciate, but in general we've got a lot of potential and there's still a long way for this side to go.
"Northampton have built their team over the last four or five years and are obviously looking to push on.
"We've got at least two or three years of development in this team to get the full potential out of it.
"So players can see that – there's a lot of excitement around to do that too.
"That's the reason why people like Matt Kvesic want to come to Gloucester, and have signed – because they see what we are doing and they want to be a part of it.
"That's extremely encouraging, but at the same time we also know that we've got to be successful now – not just in the long-term.
"And we've got a massively crucial period of matches ahead of us now, where we need to start making grounds."
Gloucester's 32-5 Kingsholm defeat to Bath on Saturday represents the low point of the season so far for the Cherry and Whites.
The fact Gloucester were already out of the LV=Cup before Saturday's game means nothing – this was the Cherry and Whites' heaviest professional-era Kingsholm defeat to their fiercest rivals.
It was also Gloucester's heaviest home defeat for more than three years and with their strongest available team too.
Gloucester anticipate a rapid upturn in performance at Northampton this weekend and expect to do that with largely the same team that slipped up so comprehensively against Bath.
Boss Davies said one of the cast-iron keys to that will be to improve discipline.
That means no more yellow cards, for starters.
While Gloucester will persevere with trying to expand their attacking game, Davies said it is paramount they cut out the cheap penalties.
Andy Hazell and Tom Savage were sin-binned against Bath and Davies called for such censures to end, now.
He added: "We've tried to play more expansively in the last month than at any other time this season, and that's fine, but the biggest problem we've got at the moment is discipline.
"Two yellow cards, nearly 20 penalties, that's just not good enough.
"It simply has a damaging effect on sides.
"That's the most basic and fundamental thing we've got to get right.
"We've been preparing for this game for three weeks.
"We'll be ready for this.
"Our discipline's got to be fundamental to that, and I expect that to improve dramatically this week."