His partner-in-crime Jonny May might not be the only player missing for Gloucester Rugby this weekend but flyer Charlie Sharples believes the last four weeks have shown there are replacements ready to carry the load.
There are still growing pains for David Humphreys and his new management staff to work through at Kingsholm but signs suggest it won’t be too long before they wake a sleeping giant.
Gloucester arrive back in Aviva Premiership Rugby against Leicester Tigers on Friday with their tails up after six wins on the bounce in all competitions.
Their last two encounters in the league were early contenders for match of the season – Gareth Steenson’s missed conversion the difference against Exeter Chiefs before James Hook’s last-gasp penalty sealed a victory over Saracens.
They will be without internationals May, Billy Twelvetrees, Greig Laidlaw and Richard Hibbard for a time yet but the Six Nations is a great Aviva Premiership Rugby leveller in that regard.
Flyer Henry Purdy is one such player to already prove an able deputy this season and Sharples says his side will head to Welford Road with the bit between their teeth.
“It’s good to see guys like Henry stepping in and adding depth to the squad, he’s done very well this year with the opportunities he’s got,” said the winger.
“It’s important to see that when we reach this time of year as we’re missing four of our key guys in Billy, Jonny, Greig and Hibbs.
“So having guys like that to come in and play well – especially during the LV= Cup weeks – is very important.
“Obviously before Christmas we had a few dark times, but the results in the Premiership have picked up with Exeter away and Saracens at home.
“Some of the squad have come in and out but in the meantime we’ve picked up wins in Europe and the LV= Cup so we’re on a roll at the moment.
“We back ourselves to beat anyone at Kingsholm and even though it doesn’t always happen, to beat a team like
Saracens shows that we can back it up.”
While it’s difficult to judge whether ninth-place Gloucester can keep their swell of momentum up, there are just ten points separating them and third.
And Sharples admitted: “We feel top six is a realistic target but saying that, there are a lot of quality teams bunched up at the moment – that middle part of the table is really tight and competitive.
“Northampton and Bath are the two clubs a class apart in terms of points so it’s fair game, even down to the bottom end of the table.”
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