Gloucester Rugby host Exeter Chiefs at Kingsholm on Friday night and ahead of the fixture Val Rapava-Ruskin spoke to the press and looked ahead to the game.
On Graham Spring’s passing
“It’s more of the senior boys who knew him. Obviously, the youngsters coming in were learning and watching videos and hearing all of these stories about him. There’s a lot of respect and the entire team sends their condolences to the family. It’s going to be a weekend where we want to make him proud and wear the jersey with pride and show that physicality and respect that the Gloucester Rugby jersey has earned over the years.”
On returning internationals
“It adds more attack and fire power and a lot more experience at the same time. I think the core group is still intact and some boys have been rested and some boys have been returning from injuries. We’re very excited about the possibility and the prospects of what we are able to do when we have a strong 23 and we’re very much looking forward to Friday night.
“It’s enjoyable seeing those faces. Those boys bring a lot of energy and a lot of focus back. What’s also great is that whilst they were gone a lot of youngsters stepped up. Results have not been going our way but it’s also a learning transition for these youngsters that come in and the energy that they’ve brought with it meant that there wasn’t the mentality that our star fire power and some of our best players have gone away. Those youngsters knew the shoes they had to fill and they did a great job.
“We’ve learnt from our mistakes and we’re just relishing the opportunity on Friday.”
On facing Exeter
“It’s going to be one of the toughest games of the season. Like I said, this squad usually rises when that sort of pressure comes on and when those big games come around the corner. We don’t focus on the opposition, we just focus on what we’re able to be good at. Everybody wants to get their body and their minds in the sort of place for such an event that Friday night will be.
“They’re European and Premiership champions. They’re the best team now in Europe but at the same time we give them a lot of respect and we know what they have accomplished but at the same time you’re only as good as your last game. We’re just focused on each other and what we can do.
“We’ve worked hard this week. It’s been a very short week because it’s a Friday night game but having everyone back and having everyone rested and ready to go. There was a bit of edge in training today, the boys that weren’t selected were pushing the boundaries and pushing the boys that are starting.”
On Exeter’s strengths
“They’re a team that hold onto the ball very well. They work hard and they realise that whatever energy they spend, the opposition has to spend it so this is a team that will hold the ball for 30 plus phases. They might score off the first phase or it might be the 40th phase. That’s why we’ve had such a hard training day today. We just need to focus, all 15 players on the field and we’re backing our ability to be the best that we can be and the result will follow.”