DEAN Ryan knows a thing or two about winning rugby matches in dark and inhospitable places and he has spelt out in no uncertain terms the potential difficulties facing Gloucester in the European Challenge Cup this weekend.
Gloucester leave for Bayonne tomorrow for a typically thorough examination and the Kingsholm head coach knows exactly what his side will be facing.
"It is an unbelievably tall order to win any game away from home because so many things need to go right for you and this weekend will be no exception," he told www.gloucesterrugby.co.uk
"Winning games is hard and even harder in European competition. If you go out simply expecting to win, I can tell you from experience it just doesn't happen.
"We know what we are up against this weekend and that is an extremely physical side who will be very competitive.
"Our aim is to be successful over a seven month period and this game is part of that. We missed an opportunity last weekend to win the game against Bath and nobody feels too great about that.
"My job is to make sure we get over that, work hard this week and keep improving. If we can take on the lessons from last Saturday, we will be a better side. In big games you only get two or three opportunities and we missed them.
"We were not as clinical in certain areas of our game as we should have been and that is something that will have to improve this weekend."
Bayonne are 11th in the French Championship but have a strong set of forwards, a big driving line-out and in Richard Dourthe, a midfield play-maker who has played for the national side.
Gloucester have yet to finalise their side but Haydn Thomas is expected to start at scrum-half with Simon Amor on the bench.
There will need to be a change in the centre because of Henry Paul's suspension and both Terry Fanolua and James Simpson-Daniel could be options.
Speaking straight after the game, skipper Billy Twelvetrees told GRTV that losing at home to Bath, in front of a tremendous home support, was desperately disappointing and that the whole team were hurting in the dressing room.
Speaking to the local media this week, Richard Hibbard expressed his excitement ahead of the West Country derby and that there is an extra spring in the step of the Cherry and Whites ahead of the tough challenge.
With such a short turnaround between the two games, and Gloucester looking to reintegrate several players into the line-up after the Autumn international series, Tom Savage told GRTV that the Cherry and Whites will keep changes to a minimum for the European Rugby Challenge Cup game in Zebre on Saturday.