Dean Ryan knows Gloucester face a tough test against London Irish
GLOUCESTER'S head coach Dean Ryan has acknowledged that his side face 'a fierce' contest against London Irish in the Guinness Premiership this Sunday.
The Kingsholm coach has yet to finalise his line-up but believes Gloucester's next two matches against the Irish and then Saracens will go a long way to shaping the rest of the campaign.
"They [London Irish] are a good side with a lot of team spirit, some big men, a very competitive line-out and a developing scrum - it will be a fierce contest," Ryan said.
"But they have added components to their game this year - they move a lot more ball and possess some very dangerous game breakers - we are under no illusions about the task we face.
"They are unbeaten in four matches and won well last weekend so we need to prepare as well as we can."
Ryan will finalise his line-up tomorrow but is almost certain to change the second row partnership that started against Leicester last weekend. Although Adam Eustace will retain his place, Peter Buxton could be shifted into his more accustomed position in the back row, which would leave room for Quinton Davids to return.
"There were elements of our game last weekend that didn't function as well as would have liked but we believe we will react in the right way this weekend," Ryan said. "We view every game with the possibility we can win but we have to make it happen."
The only major injury concern is to lock Mark Cornwell, who has a disc problem. If he is ruled out then Jonathan Pendlebury will be included in the squad but there could be more alterations.
"We make changes every week and there will be some this weekend," Ryan said. "But they only become obvious if you have lost a game, like we did last Saturday.
"I believe we need more than 15 people who are comfortable with that competitive environment and that is what we are trying to do."
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.
Gloucester travel to Italy this weekend to take on Zebre in Round Four of the European Rugby Challenge Cup. The Cherry and Whites defeated the Italian side 35-10 last Sunday, but Director of Rugby David Humphreys is looking for an improved performance in the return fixture.
Skipper Billy Twelvetrees, speaking to GRTV after the 35-10 over Zebre, was happy with the bonus point win over the Italian side but admitted Gloucester will need to tighten up for the return fixture in Parma.
Matt Kvesic was a try scorer and recipient of the Man of the Match award in Sunday's 35-10 European Rugby Challenge Cup win over Zebre. He praised the Italian side for their spirited opposition and admitted that next week's return game will be a tough one.
Gloucester Rugby welcome Sione Kalamafoni, Greig Laidlaw and Tom Palmer back to the starting line up and feature David Halaifonua in a matchday squad for the first time, as they resume Aviva Premiership action against Bath Rugby at Kingsholm on Saturday (kick off 5:30pm).