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 ahead of Saturday's Aviva Premiership fixture at home to Newcastle Falcons (kick off 3pm), Director of Rugby David Humphreys emphasised the importance this weekend of Gloucester building on last week's impressive home victory against the Exeter Chiefs.
Speaking to the assembled national and local media, try-scorer Jonny May was delighted and relieved to have tasted victory on Saturday evening, and is looking forward to the European Rugby Challenge Cup final.
Tom Savage delivered a Man of the Match performance against Exeter Chiefs on his birthday on Saturday evening. He spoke to GRTV after the game about the importance of the European Rugby Challenge Cup win.
Speaking to the local media this week, John Afoa described the hard work that the Cherry and White have been putting in and that he is fighting fit ready for Saturday's European Rugby Challenge Cup semi final clash with Exeter Chiefs.
Gloucester Rugby face Exeter Chiefs this Saturday in the European Rugby Challenge Cup semi-final, and Charlie Sharples, who starts at full back is relishing the challenge of the big Kingsholm occasion.
Gloucester meet the Exeter Chiefs for the fourth time in competitive action this weekend, this time in the semi-final of the European Rugby Challenge Cup. Director of Rugby David Humphreys told the local media this week that this is the sort of game that Gloucester want to be involved in on a regular basis and that he and his team are looking forward to it.
Gloucester Rugby return to Aviva Premiership action against the Newcastle Falcons on Saturday (Kingsholm, kick off 3pm), and make several changes to the side that defeated Exeter Chiefs at home last weekend.