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 to GRTV after the 40-29 Aviva A League win over Wasps Rugby, Academy Coach Rich Whiffin explained his pride in the squad to overcome a strong opponent and book their spot in next week's Aviva A League final.
Willi Heinz returned from injury to skipper Gloucester to a famous 16-14 win over Stade Rochelais on Saturday evening. Speaking after the game in France, Heinz admitted the win wasn't pretty but was full of courage and a great result for the club.
Billy Burns contributed all Gloucester's points in the 16-14 European Rugby Challenge Cup win in La Rochelle on Saturday evening, but dedicated the victory to the whole squad whilst also praising the travelling support.
Speaking after Gloucester's brave 16-14 win against Stade Rochelais which clinches a European Rugby Challenge Cup final spot, Director of Rugby David Humphreys paid tribute to the way the team had executed the game plan in a hostile environment against quality opposition.
Greig Laidlaw returns to the Gloucester Rugby squad this week, and his inclusion is an important one after a serious ankle injury. The Scottish scrum half is determined to drive the team forward in their European Rugby Challenge Cup semi final in La Rochelle this Saturday.
Gloucester take on La Rochelle in the European Rugby Challenge Cup semi-final in France on Saturday evening, with the Top 14 side the favourites in the eyes of the bookmakers. However, David Humphreys is looking for his side to rise to the occasion against a familiar opponent.
Speaking to GRTV after Saturday's 39-30 Aviva Premiership win over Sale, Mark Atkinson admitted that the performance wasn't perfect but that the team's character shone through in a game that could easily have slipped away.