GLOUCESTER Rugby's head coach Dean Ryan has given his club's growing involvement with the Pertemps Bees a glowing endorsement and believes it is crucial in the development of players at both clubs.
Ryan was speaking after Gloucester Rugby announced a formal link with the National One side - skippered by former Kingsholm lock Mark Cornwell - that will see a number of players go on loan from Gloucester throughout the coming season.
The project has already paid handsome dividends for both clubs. Early last season, both Ryan Lamb and Luke Narraway spent time at Sharmans Cross Road to gain first team experience and returned to Kingsholm later in the year to make vital contributions to Gloucester's European Challenge Cup success.
Lamb then joined up with the England Under-21 party for the World Championships, while Narraway was a member of the England Saxons Churchill Cup squad.
"We have already got first class evidence of the success of this scheme following the contributions guys like Ryan Lamb and Luke Narraway made for us last season," Ryan told <http://www.gloucesterrugby.co.uk/
"I am certain that the exposure to senior rugby with the Bees helped their development substantially. It provides game-time and match fitness and is an avenue we want to explore further.
"We have a number of young players like Dean Miller and Dan Tuohy who will benefit massively from this arrangement. Having someone like Mark Cornwell involved with the Bees this season is a huge bonus because he has first-hand experience of what makes a top Premiership player.
"It can help fast-track development of these guys and at the same time offer Pertemps some quality players."
Gloucester also anticipate full-back Jon Goodridge, stand-off Brad Davies and prop Terry Sigley being involved in the scheme so regular first team players retain their match fitness when not involved in the Guinness Premiership.
Phil Maynard, Director of Rugby at Pertemps Bees, added: "We are pleased to be able to strengthen our links with Gloucester.
"We have played our part in developing the likes of Ryan Lamb and Luke Narraway in the past two seasons and our partnership with Gloucester adds depth and experience to our first team squad.
"We are particualrly pleased to be able to welcome Terry Sigley back on loan. Terry was a key member of the side that took us to the semi-finals of the Powergen Cup two years ago and to fourth place in National One.
"We encouraged him to try his hand with Gloucester and he will come back to us a better player having had two seasons of Premiership rugby."
It's the first Gloucester-Bristol derby at Kingsholm in over eight years this Saturday (kick off 4:30pm) and, previewing the game with the local media this week, Defence Coach Jonny Bell stressed that, with both teams in the bottom half of the table, they both need the points.
Speaking to the local media this week, Gloucester front rower John Afoa knows the challenge ahead this week against Bristol, and calls on the Cherry and Whites to make the most of home advantage as a determined squad look to bounce back from a narrow loss to Saracens.
Tom Savage speaks to GRTV and the local media as Gloucester went down by 24-20 at Saracens on Sunday afternoon. The second row was disappointed with the result, despite a strong showing from the hosts.
Speaking immediately after the game, skipper Willi Heinz thought that Gloucester had executed their game plan reasonably well and competed hard against Saracens. However, it wasn't enough but the squad will have plenty to work on this week ahead of the derby match against Bristol.
Gloucester may be coming off their best win of the season, the 38-16 victory over Wasps last weekend, but Director of Rugby David Humphreys admits that Sunday's trip to Saracens is an even tougher test.
After a series of contract announcements last week, hooker Richard Hibbard is the latest Gloucester Rugby player to commit to a new contract at the club and told GRTV how much he enjoys playing in the Cherry and White of Gloucester.
A try scorer in the 36-18 Aviva Premiership win over Wasps at Kingsholm on Saturday, Charlie Sharples admitted that Gloucester would enjoy the moment but can't get too carried away. The team got what they deserved but the winger wants these performances to be more frequent.
England Head Coach Eddie Jones has made two changes to his side to play Australia in Saturday's final match of the Old Mutual Wealth Series at Twickenham Stadium (kick-off 2.30pm, live on Sky Sports 2). Jonny May lines up on the left wing.