DEAN RYAN'S Gloucester squad will intensify their preparations ahead of the new Guinness Premiership season with a seven-day training camp in Portugal, starting today.
Some of the top names at Kingsholm - including new signings Lesley Vainikolo, Leon Lloyd and Andy Titterrell - will be put through their paces at a training base at Browns Sports & Leisure Club, the same venue used by England last month.
Until now, the majority of Gloucester's pre-season work has focused on conditioning, fitness and strength work, but the emphasis now will turn to rugby.
The entire squad - apart from Gloucester's World Cup participants - will be involved and head coach Ryan told www.gloucesterrugby.co.uk: "This is a very significant part of our preparation. Being together as a squad is hugely beneficial at this stage of the season - it allows us to work as a unit, build relationships that will be important in the weeks to come and focus on rugby.
"The squad are now back and have been working extremely hard alongside Mike Anthony (fitness and conditioning coach), making plenty of gains. The new players have integrated really well so we can now take their development a stage further."
It will be the third time that Gloucester have used Browns in Vilamoura following visits last summer and in February.
"The facilities are first class," Ryan added. "It will be great to get some training done in favourable conditions and hopefully we can accomplish a great deal before the start of our pre-season programme."
Gloucester have two pre-season games - against Cardiff away on Saturday, August 25 (2.30pm) and Ulster on Saturday, September 8 (6.30pm).
Gloucester Rugby face Exeter Chiefs this Saturday in the European Rugby Challenge Cup semi-final, and Charlie Sharples, who starts at full back is relishing the challenge of the big Kingsholm occasion.
Gloucester meet the Exeter Chiefs for the fourth time in competitive action this weekend, this time in the semi-final of the European Rugby Challenge Cup. Director of Rugby David Humphreys told the local media this week that this is the sort of game that Gloucester want to be involved in on a regular basis and that he and his team are looking forward to it.
Following the 29-26 loss to Harlequins, club captain Billy Twelvetrees spoke of his disappointment that the Cherry and Whites were unable to cash in on the home side's indiscipline and lose a lead on Saturday afternoon.
Number eight Gareth Evans admitted to a collective feeling of frustration as Gloucester lost narrowly at Harlequins on Saturday, but insisted that there are plenty of positives to draw upon ahead of next Saturday's European Rugby Challenge Cup semi-final at home to Exeter.
Gloucester travel to the Stoop on Saturday afternoon to take on Harlequins in the Aviva Premiership. The Cherry and Whites make just two changes from last weekend's win over Connacht as they seek consistency and continuity in their play as Nick Walshe told the local media this week.
Speaking to GRTV after the final whistle, Tom Palmer praised the Cherry and Whites concentration and desire to hold on to a narrow 14-7 victory. The second row topped the tackle charts with 19 as he led the home team's resistance.
Recent meetings between these two teams have often been thrillers, and this was no exception. It went down to the final few minutes, but Gloucester produced the goods when it mattered to qualify for the European Rugby Challenge Cup Final, beating Exeter 30-19.
Supporters who are still to purchase tickets for Saturday's European Rugby Challenge Cup semi-final at home to Exeter Chiefs at Kingsholm (kick off 7:45pm) are reminded that Early Bird prices are only valid until 6:30pm on Thursday evening.
The Gloucester Wheelchair Rugby team travelled to Fenton Manor Complex, Stoke on Trent last Saturday to take part in the final round of the GBWR Super Series of the season, knowing just one win would be enough to crown them Division 3 Champions.