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.
As Gloucester prepare for their 39th game of the season, against Bordeaux-Begles at Sixways on Sunday, David Humphreys told the local media that this week has been all about getting the players mentally and physically ready after a tough game against Connacht last Sunday.
Speaking to GRTV after the 40-32 victory over Connacht on Sunday, skipper Billy Twelvetrees explained that Gloucester had had to learn to be patient and cut out the errors to earn the win and progress to next weekend's final play-off against Bordeaux-Begles.
Jonny May's superb late score capped a thrilling 40-32 European play-off win over Connacht on Sunday. The winger spoke afterwards of his team's character and spirit as he looked ahead to one more week of rugby.
Speaking to GRTV this afternoon, Director of Rugby David Humphreys hailed the 'never say die' attitude of the team, after despite not being at their best, fighting back to take a 40-32 win after extra time over Connacht.
Jonny May continues on the wing on Sunday as Connacht come to town, and the England wing explains to the local media this week that he is delighted with his form and is looking forward to taking on Pat Lam's men.
Following the recent announcement that XBlades were to become the club's new kit and leisurewear partner, Gloucester Rugby can today (Tuesday 30 June) confirm the opening of a new retail unit, based at Gloucester Quays Outlet Centre, as well as the launch of a brand new online shop.