With the majority of first team players back training Freddie Clarke and James Hanson spoke on how it’s good to be back, focusing on momentum and utilising the Northampton game as Premiership preparation begins.
Clarke ready for action
Having not missed a game prior to the Premiership Rugby Cup, Freddie Clarke was keen to have some time off, but insists he and the rest of the squad are ready for battle once more. ”The boys who are in the line-up to start the game on Friday have had a couple of weeks off which has been great to refresh the minds and bodies. We’re treating it like a proper Premiership game so we don’t slow down into next week.
It’s good not only physically, but it’s more important mentally for us. It’s a very high pressure environment.
On a personal note I’ve been involved in every game, but not necessarily played many minutes, but it was nice to have some time away.
Progress pleasing for Clarke
Despite a distinct lack of minutes this season Clarke has worked on his weaknesses alongside the coaching staff and said ”I’m very pleased [With progress]. I was grateful for the opportunity at the start where I was covering back and second row for the first five games of the season and I’ve got a shot in the back row from the Champions Cup games onwards. I’m very happy to play my part and I’ve been delighted how I’ve pushed on this season.
Helping push Clarke and his teammates on is Jaco Kriel, who now is back fit will challenge them for a spot in the back row. He’s only going to make us better and you seen glimpses in the past week or so and he’s going to be a great asset going forward and he’s going to drive the standard of the back row up, it’s a very competitive back row and we all want to play.
Preparation for Premiership begins now
The Northampton game on Friday will be the last of the current block of Premiership Rugby Cup games. This means both sides will be fielding a strong side with the aim of carrying momentum through to the Premiership with Clarke saying, ”We’re treating it like a full Premiership game. It’s been a full Premiership week of prep and knowing your roles. Two weeks away from rugby you’ll be surprised how much you want to get back to it and we’ll treat it with the full mindset.”
Staying in the cup may well be seen as a distraction for many sides, but not for Gloucester. ”It keeps us in the mix for sure. If we can stay involved in all competitions it’ll be a great season. It means you have to play your full squad, it’ll be a whole squad effort.”
Clarke has had his fortnight off and now sets himself the target of gaining more minutes in a bid to get a starting back row jersey saying, ”I’ve had those conversations and I know what I have to do. I just have to bide my time and take my opportunity. I won’t settle for that as I want a starting jersey. I can play back row and second row so they can use me as a utility, but essentially I want to be starting in that back row for Gloucester.
The boys who had time off we come together as a squad, done some analysis on the last game and some review. There was clear work on what we had to do, but we’re focusing on us and this week’s game.”
Hanson back to business
James Hanson is looking forward to his return to rugby following an injury sustained earlier in the season. Discussing getting back on field he said ”We’re looking forward to getting back on the park together. It’s been a few weeks since our last big match and since then guys have returned from injury and the Prem Cup has been used to give young boys game time. It’s good to be back together now.”
Being one of the senior players in the camp Hanson described his role throughout the trio of Premiership Rugby Cup games with the influx of younger players. ”There’s always going to be guys coming through and as an older player it’s your responsibility to help them come through and improve. As we found out in the first few weeks, injuries can happen really quickly and you really test your squad depth. Some guys have really come through and stepped up to the mark.”
Durability a key facet
Despite picking up an injury Hanson focuses on ensuring he is durable saying ”It’s always something that I’ve prided myself on. It’s an unfortunate injury to Franco [Marais], but we’ve got plenty of young guys coming through. Todd Gleave has been playing well in the Premiership Cup. Henry Walker and Joe Mullis have played enough rugby in a professional environment that they can step up any time. Franco is someone we’ll definitely miss.
It’s been good to have this block, I missed the two European games and that was really difficult because they’re the games you look forward to. It’s a brutal season, you’re always playing with a few niggles and it was time to get my body right and keep improving as a player.
Premiership preparation begins ahead of Saints clash
The key focus on the minds of everyone at Gloucester camp is focusing on going forwards and gaining momentum as they head into the Gallagher Premiership once more.
”Everyone’s ambition is getting confidence into next week so we want to make sure we’re accurate in what we want to do and achieve. Not so much results driven, but really focusing on each play and making sure we’re as accurate as can be. Hopefully the result will look after itself. All the focus has been on us, we know from that last block of Premiership and European games we’ve got plenty of improvement from us.
During this block is definitely where we go back and look back at the whole block. It could be a few games and pick up trends where we’ve slipped off or we’ve gone away from. Also to improve our game we can’t be predictable. Every week we want to be a different team and have different focus so it’s really hard for teams to do their review and analysis on us. We want to keep them guessing and keep improving that and evolve as a team.
We stress the importance of raising those basic standards, evolving shape. Individual skills and responsibility and skills is something you look at in your own time.”
Main image: Embed from Getty Images