Gloucester Rugby may have beaten Worcester Warriors three times this season, but fly-half James Hook insists they must continue to improve defensively if his side want to subdue Dean Ryan’s ‘deadly’ outside backs.
Ryan’s outfit lost home and away to Gloucester in the European Challenge Cup and at Kingsholm in Aviva Premiership Rugby round three, but claimed a much-needed away win against Newcastle Falcons at Kingston Park last time out.
David Humphrey’s side meanwhile have gone from strength-to-strength, an immense defensive shift against red-hot Wasps giving them their fourth win in five Aviva Premiership Rugby fixtures and moving them into the top six.
And Hook’s undoubted attacking talent has not distracted him from the need to build their play-off charge on a solid defensive footing.
“(Chris) Pennell is deadly and if you give him a bit of space he will take it. We are well aware of the threats they have got and we are surprised by the number of games they have lost,” the 81-times capped Welsh international said.
“Since Jonny Bell has come in he has really turned our defence around and I think I mentioned last week that we really enjoy defending, which is important, so I think if we can keep up the sort of performance we did against Wasps last week, we should be alright.
“Defensively, to get 15 boys on the same page, it doesn’t happen over-night, so I think you can see week-by-week that it is improving all the time and there is always stuff to improve, we will keep improving, but as long as we take those small steps we will be alright.
“Everyone knows how tight the table is and these three games are massive for us, just because Worcester are below us in the table doesn’t mean that they will be any easier than the games we’ve played against teams above us, but we know they’re games we can win as well.”
Worcester leapfrogged Newcastle Falcons with last week’s win and increased their gap with London Irish to nine points, considerably easing the pressure at Sixways.
The Warriors have been boosted in recent weeks by Springbok Francois Hougaard and the scrum-half was exceptional again against the Falcons.
However, if they hope to turn over Gloucester they will have to do so without Hougaard’s fellow South African Dewald Potgieter, who required shoulder surgery on an injury sustained in before half time against Dean Richards' men.
Warriors defeated Sale Sharks in a thriller during their last run-out at Sixways and they will be hoping for their first back-to-back home wins in three months in Saturday’s West Country derby.
Hook said that despite the high of defeating Dai Young’s side, his teammates were fired up for another derby game.
He said: “It is a local derby as well, which adds that little bit of extra spice. It is going to be a real, tough physical battle and we feel like we can come up on top.
“As long as we are there mentally and physically, we stand a good chance. This week is Worcester, if we can get a good win there, we’ve set ourselves in a good position.
“We’re not looking any further than the Worcester game, it is a huge test for us, a derby game and the boys are excited.”
Referee: Ian Tempest (16th Premiership game).
Assistant Referees: Peter Allan & John Meredith. TMO: Rowan Kitt.