Gloucester captain Billy Twelvetrees says that he cannot wait to kick off the new Aviva Premiership season against Northampton Saints on Friday night.
The England international is embarking on his third season at Kingsholm after joining from Leicester Tigers in 2012, and with the Rugby World Cup slowly appearing on the horizon, the 25-year-old knows he has to perform to the best of his abilities in order to make Stuart Lancaster's squad.
Tom Savage's absence last season meant that Twelvetrees was temporarily made captain, and he has now been given the role on a permanent basis after some fine performances for club and country at the end of last season. And, the centre knows he must keep up the good work - starting immediately at Franklin Gardens tomorrow night.
Twelvetrees told GiveMeSport: "Like any pre-season, it's been tough. The boys have been working hard for each other, obviously with the new coaches and new players coming in it's going to be difficult to get to know each other quickly, but it's a challenge we're looking forward to and we have to start immediately on Friday night.
'Buzzing' for kick-off
"It will take some time to find our best, possibly longer than usual given the new recruits. Some of us have come back from our holidays and training camps a bit later than would be ideal, but we're all aware of what is expected.
"But, I'm buzzing to get started now. It's the way you want to start the season - Friday night against the champions, testing yourself - I think we're in a good place to go there, we're fully aware of what they have, what they did last year, and obviously respect them because they are the best in England so fair play to them."
The versatile back described being named skipper for Cherry and Whites as a 'huge honour', and can't wait to lead his side out against the Saints.
"It's massive. It's a huge honour for me to captain these players, and represent the community of Gloucester and the boys at the Kingsholm," he added.
"There's no better feeling than that. I just can't wait to get stuck in and lead the boys out every week."
Twelvetrees' teammates will have bad memories of the trip to Northampton last season, with Gloucester suffering a 39-13 defeat at the hands of the Saints back in March. The skipper didn't feature that night.
This first game of the new season will offer his side a chance to find a level for consistency throughout the season however, and he believes that will be crucial as they push for a top six finish.
The additions of some big names in the summer could also play their part in helping to improve on last season's disappointing finish in the Premiership.
"We just need a bit of consistency in our performance, getting the basics right mainly. In order to win the game you've got to do the simple things right, and we sometimes didn't have that last year, so we've been working hard on that this pre-season," he concluded.
"Whoever we've lost, we've recruited well. We've had Alex Thomas and James Hook come on board at fly-half, who are two top quality players, so everyone's been getting their heads down and working hard. We've got some strength in depth as well, especially in the forwards, which is what we need for a long season."
Indeed, the likes of highly-rated New Zealand prop John Afoa, brought in from Ulster in the close season, alongside Welsh international Richard Hibbard, add a new dimension and quality to Gloucester.
After the opening game against the Saints, director of rugby Dean Humphreys will watch his side host Sale and Exeter in their next league matches.
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