Darren Dawidiuk has made more appearances off the bench than starts in Aviva Premiership Rugby this season but the Gloucester Rugby hooker insists the experience is only making him stronger.
The 27-year-old has turned out 99 times for the Cherry & Whites since arriving in 2009 but he saw the battle for places hot up this summer with the arrival, among others, of veteran Tongan hooker Aleki Lutui and British and Irish Lion Richard Hibbard.
It is the latter that has staked a claim for the No.2 jersey, starting nine of Gloucester’s 12 Aviva Premiership games this season with Dawidiuk starting the other three.
The most recent of those came in last weekend’s 26-25 win over Exeter Chiefs which left Dawidiuk just one short of a century of appearances for the club.
And the 27-year-old admits the competition for places is only driving him on to improve his own all round game.
“Obviously it’s been tough for me this season as I’ve not had as many opportunities,” he said.
“But I definitely feel as a player that I have got better through learning off the coaching and the players around me in my position.
“I’m one of those players who thrives off the competition. It’s only driving me on to push myself and work and training even harder to get into the team on a more regular basis.
“People like Richard (Hibbard) are obviously very helpful with things such as the scrummaging side of things. I just need to take my opportunities when they come.
“We’re into the second half of the season and things are starting to come together. There were a lot of changes over the summer and things will inevitably take time to gel.
“But we have really gotten to know each other both on and off the field now. We are looking to keep building and getting better week on week. It’s about pushing each other to get better.”
Gloucester’s win over Exeter was just their second win in their last seven league games.
And while the visit of last season’s finalist Saracens awaits on Friday, Dawidiuk admitted the feeling was positive around Kingsholm this week.
“It’s been very good in training. The spirit within the camp is understandably high after what was a much needed win,” he added.
“We had a lot to prove especially after the run we had been on. But it’s about getting momentum for the next game and maintaining that so we can’t afford to get too carried away.
“Being in the bottom half of the table is not where we wanted to be at the start of the season and so now it is about pushing up.”
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