Gloucester boss Bryan Redpath will not underestimate the Dragons
Bryan Redpath is all set to celebrate his first Heineken Cup experience as a head coach next Friday but he admits that the Dragons have the potential to spoil the party.
Having taken over from Dean Ryan at Kingsholm earlier this summer, Redpath leads the Cherry and Whites into action against the South Wales outfit a week today knowing the hosts can expect a tough start to their new European campaign.
The two sides have built up a healthy respect for each other dating back to the days when the Dragons were preceded by Newport and Redpath expects the latest instalment in their long-running rivalry to be a typically demanding encounter.
"The Dragons have got a history with Gloucester going back years," said Redpath, who won 60 caps for Scotland between 1993 and 2003.
"It was a tough game when we played them last year and we're under no illusions. The Dragons have definitely improved. They've got a great team spirit and work ethic and that's coming through with some good results.
"They've performed pretty well so far in their domestic league. They gave us a tough game last year at home and they'll come with nothing to lose. That's always a great plus for anyone to go into a game with.
"People start talking about underdogs but I think they work hard for each and have had some good results off the back of that. If players work hard for each other, they'll get rewards somewhere along the line. We're in no doubt as to how tough it will be."
After facing the Dragons at Kingsholm in their tournament opener, Gloucester travel to the Basque country to take on French giants Biarritz before a double header against Glasgow follows in December.
And having seen Gloucester fail to qualify for last year's quarter-finals despite high expectations, Redpath would love to see his West Country team back among the big boys come April of next year.
"Getting to the later stages would mean a lot to us," added Redpath, who was twice a European Challenge Cup as a player with Sale Sharks in 2002 and 2005.
"When you get to those knockout stages you can never predict what's going to happen.
"Having been in and around it as a player for a long, long time, as a coach I want to succeed and progress to the later stages.
"That's what it's all about though. There's no point just turning up and making up the numbers in the group. That's certainly not what I'd want anyone in Gloucester to feel that we're doing.
"There'll be some tough challenges along the way. It's a tough competition. I know for a fact playing Glasgow in Glasgow will be tough and I know how passionate they'll be about wanting to come down to Kingsholm and do well, and Biarritz are always a good team.
"We've got to strive to win our home games - that's paramount. If we slip up there then you can virtually say goodbye to your chances of qualifying for the knockout stages."
As part of the build-up to next month's Cardiff 2014 Heineken Cup and Amlin Challenge Cup finals weekend, ERC has joined forces with the WRU, Cardiff Blues and adidas to develop an annual grassroots community rugby programme targeting young players.
The Ulster Rugby full back, Jared Payne (No 15), has been suspended for two (2) weeks following an independent Disciplinary Hearing in Dublin arising from the Heineken Cup quarter-final match against Saracens at Ravenhill Stadium on Saturday, 5 April.