Gloucester captain Greig Laidlaw is holding high expectations for the new Aviva Premiership Rugby season, but admits that his side need to improve across the board if they are to reach their lofty aims.
Despite finishing on top spot three times since the turn of the century, Gloucester have yet to lift the Aviva Premiership Rugby title – one of just four teams going into the 2016-17 season without a crown to boast.
It’s a record Laidlaw is desperate to avenge, starting when they host the competition’s most successful side in Leicester Tigers on Friday.
But for a side that have finished in the top four just once in seven years, the Scot admits the route back to Europe’s top tier is not going to be as straightforward as some in the west may hope.
“We’ve got to try and change the way we’ve played and we’ve changed the way we’ve trained as well. We’re trying to be shorter, sharper, more intense and a lot more accurate,” said the scrum-half.
“We’re trying to drag the skill level up across the board and the understanding of the game – we work hard but we want to work smart as well, and that’s the message the coaches and the leaders group are trying to get across.
“We want to get back into the Champions Cup absolutely, but we’re waking up in the morning and going to training because we have the ambition to win the Aviva Premiership.
“That’s the mentality we’re trying to develop within the squad. We’ll set ourselves many goals during the season to keep track of where we are and hopefully these things will add up.
“We’re not going to shout about it from the rooftops because we’ve finished eighth and ninth the last two years, we understand where we are.”
This season will see Laidlaw joined by fellow Scotland international Matt Scott at Kingsholm, who arrives from his former club Edinburgh.
It’s a move south which Laidlaw has already profited from, making 42 appearances in his two seasons to date, while also becoming a focal point of the Scotland team and earning a World Player of the Year nomination.
And the 30-year-old believes there’s no better experience for Scott to develop, both with Gloucester and on the Aviva Premiership Rugby stage.
“It’s going to be a big year, it was brilliant for me to come down to Gloucester,” he added. “That helped my game and under Vern with Scotland, he’s been a big help too. I want to have a more successful season once again.
“I think it can have the same influence. I think Matt’s move has come at a brilliant time for him, he’s at the right age and he’s come for the right reasons.
“He wanted to get out and challenge himself in a different environment week in week out, and he’s settled in well with the group.
“Matt gave me a call, I’m decent mates with him from back in Edinburgh and I couldn’t speak highly enough of Gloucester.
“It’s a wonderful place to play your rugby in Aviva Premiership Rugby and in Kingsholm, so I’m delighted he’s come down.”
Aviva Premiership Rugby returns this weekend. For a full fixture list please click here