Gloucester head coach Dean Ryan is determined not to abandon his attacking principles in the cauldron of a Heineken Cup quarter-final against European heavyweights Munster.
A sold-out Kingsholm will witness the fifth European showdown between Gloucester and Munster tomorrow. All four previous meetings were won - emphatically – by the home team.
The English side are desperate to continue that trend, but despite topping the Guinness Premiership their recent form has raised plenty of questions.
Three wins out of eight is not something normally associated with European quarter-finalists, but Gloucester have no intention of retreating into their shell and playing a conservative game.
Ryan said: “I don’t think it is a secret that we prefer to have movement in a game, and that we struggle if people take it away from us.
“With the attacking threat we have in our back division, we’re not likely to go looking for a static contest.
“Yes, it’s a difficult selection, especially in the back row where we have so many good players offering different things.
“But I am tending towards picking a side capable of playing the kind of rugby we’ve been looking to play all season.
“To my mind, quarter-finals are not about getting to 12-all and praying for a last-minute penalty.”
Ryan’s admirable approach will be music to the ears of strike-runners like James Simpson-Daniel, Chris Paterson and Lesley Vainikolo, while Gloucester could also have England centre Mike Tindall available.
Tindall has been sidelined for two months since suffering liver damage during England’s RBS 6 Nations defeat to Wales – an injury so serious that he spent three days in the intensive care unit of a London hospital.
Revered European warriors Munster will not, however, be alarmed by whatever combination Ryan settles on, especially having won six previous Heineken Cup quarter-finals from nine attempts.
Full-back Shaun Payne said: “Competition for places at Munster is so much keener than at any stage in the last five years.
“Nothing is taken for granted any more, and the only motivation we will need on Saturday will be the nature of last season’s quarter-final defeat at Llanelli.
“The hunger that is always there with Munster is now more so than ever.”
Quarter-final newcomers London Irish face a third meeting this season with uncompromising French side Perpignan.
Pool games between the clubs before Christmas went with home advantage, but an undercurrent for tomorrow’s Madejski Stadium encounter is provided by events in Perpignan last time out.
Irish forward Kieran Roche suffered a fractured cheekbone and eye socket during the 23-6 loss, an incident that saw Perpignan skipper Perry Freshwater cited and banned for four weeks.
Sensibly, tournament organisers have handed tomorrow’s tie to 2007 World Cup final referee Alain Rolland.
World Cup winner Percy Montgomery will be pivotal to Perpignan’s hopes of ending the Exiles’ European adventure, and he said: “We are going to give it everything.
“We are expecting a fast, tough game, and we will be looking to give the same back in return.”
Sunday’s quarter-final action includes a quickfire rematch between Saracens and the Ospreys.
The game comes just a fortnight after Saracens suffered a 30-3 battering against Gavin Henson and company in the EDF Energy Cup, although they now meet at Watford rather than Cardiff’s Millennium Stadium.
Ospreys and Wales lock Ian Gough said: “It is interesting playing opponents twice in quick succession.
“You have plenty of material to study and pinpoint a team’s strengths and weaknesses. They will try to pick our game apart, and it’s up to us to counter that.
“It was almost like a home game for us because so many of the squad had been involved with Wales at the Millennium Stadium the previous week, but this time we will be in their back yard and that’s always tough in Europe.”
Elsewhere on Sunday, Cardiff Blues face the daunting prospect of tackling three-time Heineken Cup winners Toulouse in south-west France.