SHAUN Knight's England Saxons test is the next step on his rise to tighthead prop dominance, believes Nigel Davies.
The 22-year-old Matson-born Gloucester front-rower was named in England's second-string squad for the first time yesterday.
And Gloucester boss Davies thinks the experience will help developing Knight continue his quickfire Kinsgholm improvement.
Neck trouble has sidelined Rupert Harden for the last few weeks. So far this term Harden and Knight have both shown up well in Gloucester's number three shirt.
Despite his short-term injury Harden was still a surprise omission from the Saxons squad, especially given he was called up to the full England squad as an injury replacement during the summer South Africa tour.
Tom Savage is perhaps another Gloucester who can count himself unlucky not to receive recognition, and there is no room in either squad for Nick Wood or Henry Trinder either. Backing Knight to become a top-class tighthead, Davies said that will still take years rather than months.
Davies explained: "It's good for Shaun, he's a developing tighthead prop, and they are a long time in the making, good tightheads.
"Shaun will be an excellent tighthead, in the next three to four years he'll develop into a top tighthead.
"But it's a difficult process to go through.
"He's had some good games recently, and he's been learning his trade in others, and that's a process he's got to go through.
"I'm very pleased that our overall involvement in both England squads has increased significantly and it's reflected in how we've been performing.
"We're delighted as a club, it shows we're progressing, and it shows the players are progressing too which is important."
Lancaster could find no place for Charlie Sharples in his senior squad, dropping him down to the Saxons.
Gloucester boss Davies admitted his surprise at that call – hailing Hong Kong-born Sharples' impressive club form.
Despite limited attacking options in recent weeks, Sharples' accurate back-foot play under pressure has been hugely impressive.
Sharples claimed two tries in England's autumn Fiji victory, but was employed on the left wing despite his natural propensity to play on the right.
England boss Lancaster favours Chris Ashton as his man strike wing, and yesterday hinted that Wasps tyro Christian Wade is pushing the Northampton wing very close.
Sharples might have a job on his hands to turn Lancaster's head back in his direction – but Davies backed the 23-year-old wing to do just that, and in some style too.
Davies continued: "I think it's the nature of the game, I spoke to Charlie about this, and the higher up in the game you go the harder it is sometimes, and the bigger the knocks.
"I don't think Charlie's done anything wrong, I think he's played very well for us, and it's a shame but the selectors have looked at it differently.
"They've looked at other players and taken a different view at this stage.
"But I'm sure Charlie will play for England again in the very near future. He's been excellent, his contact skills and defence have improved a lot.
"We know what he can do with the ball and he's looked dangerous, but he's been so accurate and delivered a high level of performance."