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.
Gloucester will field a reshuffled side against the Ospreys in the LV= Cup this weekend, but Backs & Attack Coach Nick Walshe stressed that it's a great opportunity for everyone on duty on Saturday and that maintaining the recent winning run is very important.
Skipper Billy Twelvetrees told GRTV after the win in Brive that the game could have been a tough one to get up for, but that his Gloucester team mates did themselves proud on the night and got a big result.
Reflecting on the 31-20 victory in Brive on Thursday evening, Director of Rugby David Humphreys said that clinching a home European Rugby Challenge Cup quarter-final was the overall aim and duly achieved.
Gloucester may have already clinched a home European Rugby Challenge Cup quarter-final, but Director of Rugby David Humphreys wants his side to finish the pool stages on a winning note in Brive on Thursday evening.
Speaking after Saturday's win, James Hudson was happy to record a bonus-point win against a hugely physical Oyonnax side as Gloucester secured their passage into the European Rugby Challenge Cup Quarter Finals
Gloucester Rugby have added to their front row strength in depth for next season with the signings of Paul Doran-Jones, Paddy McAllister and Nicky Thomas from Harlequins, Aurillac and the Ospreys respectively.