Tom Savage insists Gloucester Rugby’s Aviva Premiership Rugby defeat to Sale Sharks will not halt the progress his side have made in 2015.
The Cherry and Whites were overpowered by their hosts on a damp and blustery afternoon at the AJ Bell Stadium, the 23-6 result stretching their winless run in the league to three matches.
That run was preceded by seven straight wins in all competitions, however, and the West Country side’s recent lack of success did include a thrilling 33-33 draw with reigning Aviva Premiership Rugby champions Northampton Saints in round 17.
The statistics suggest the new-look Gloucester are on the up, and lock Savage, who also plays in the back row, may have January triumphs over Saracens and Exeter Chiefs in mind when he suggests the Kingsholm side are a growing force.
“We have probably been a bit more inconsistent than we would like this season, but I certainly think we have made some big strides since the turn of the year,” the 25-year-old said.
“We had a big player and staff turnover at the start of the campaign, so we knew it would mean a lot of hard work and tweaking, but you can see that we have improved in recent months.
“The Saints example is a good one, because we lost heavily at their place back in September and then probably should have pipped them in a close-run game at Kingsholm recently.
“There is still work to be done, but it definitely feels like it is falling into place, and that is a great position to be in.
“We were pretty disappointed with how it went against Sale, because we did target it as a chance for us to go and challenge them, but we just never really found a way in.
“Credit to Sale, their line speed was very impressive and they stopped us from getting back into the game late on. We will learn from that moving forward.”
David Humphreys’ side do not have long to recover from that Sale setback, with Pro12 outfit Connacht next up on Friday in the European Rugby Challenge Cup quarter-finals.
And while the Cherry and Whites sit 11 points adrift of a top six place in Aviva Premiership Rugby, Savage acknowledges the prospect of Challenge Cup success is tantalising.
“It is knockout rugby from here on in, so we have to take it one game at a time,” he added.
“But we understand it is a huge opportunity for silverware, so we have to be focused on Connacht and the challenges they pose to try and continue.
“First and foremost we have to nullify their forward threat – they have a big pack, they are strong in the scrums and very effective at defending and attacking the mauls.
“There is still a lot to play for this season, and the squad is really starting to gel. Hopefully we can keep building on that development and carry it forward.”