Cowan relishing Euro arena

Thu, 05 Dec 2013 11:20
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All Black scrumhalf Jimmy Cowan said that the prospect of playing in the European Cup was a major part of his decision to sign with Gloucester last season.

All Black scrumhalf Jimmy Cowan said that the prospect of playing in the European Cup was a major part of his decision to sign with Gloucester last season.

He had to show patience for a full season before that happened after Gloucester spent last term plying their trade in the Challenge Cup, but he insists it was worth the wait.

"From the outset, a major factor in me coming over here was to experience the European Cup, and it's certainly lived up to all expectations to date. I thoroughly enjoyed the win against Perpignan in the first European Cup hit out of the season," said Cowan.

"It's a great competition. The boys certainly love it and you can really sense it when a European Cup week is here because there's a different feel around training.

"The European Cup is played a lot on TV back home. You don't see a lot of the Premiership stuff but you see a lot of the European Cup on the rugby shows throughout the week and then the highlights show. It's televised all the way around the world.

"New Zealand's a rugby mad country and they love their rugby, and the European Cup plays a big part in that. We follow it and we certainly know what's going on.

"Gloucester's rugby mad as well and there's nothing better than a big game here at Kingsholm. The supporters certainly get into it and you can see the extra excitement among the fans," he added.

That excitement is echoed among the players right now as Cowan and co prepare for back-to-back encounters with Edinburgh, starting this Saturday in the Scottish capital.

With all four teams in Pool Six having won one and lost one of their opening two fixtures, Gloucester know that back-to-back wins over the 2012 semifinalists would leave them in good shape for a first European Cup quarterfinal since 2008.

"We're right in the mix," added Cowan, who played more than 50 Tests for New Zealand between 2004 and 2011 and has featured nine times for Gloucester so far this season and 24 in total.

"I'm looking forward to the next two games. I know Edinburgh's a nice place to go having been there with the All Blacks and I'm looking forward to getting back down there again.

"It's critical that you win your home games and, as they all say, if you can pick up points or win games on the road, it's a real bonus. We've won one and lost one and the group is wide open. The next two weeks will be critical in terms of the outcome of the group.

"I don't want to look too far ahead, but (after Edinburgh away) we've got Edinburgh at home and then we've got Munster at home and Munster and Gloucester have got two of the best fan bases in Europe so I can imagine that night is going to be a big night.

"There's no better place to play rugby in the world than in front of fan bases like that. They're pretty parochial, they know their stuff and they certainly let you know if you're not doing what you should be. They keep you honest all the time which I agree with fully," he said.

Gloucester have lost the likes of veteran England international James Simpson-Daniel and young centre Ryan Mills to injury in recent weeks but Cowan claims they have enough strength in depth to kick on in Europe, even if the former's absence is a major blow.

"Simpson-Daniel is a big loss. It's not just what he does on the rugby field but his off-the-field influence around the group. He has a lot of influence around team meetings and he's a big loss in that regard.

"Ryan Mills has got a lot of talent and is a real ball distributor at 12 but it's important going into the season that you have a quality squad because these things do happen, it's part and parcel of the game.

"We've been tested but we've got players who can come in and do a job, there's no doubt about that."

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Pool 1
Team P W D L Pts
Clermont Auvergne 6 5 0 1 22
Saracens 6 4 0 2 17
Munster 6 3 0 3 15
Sale Sharks 5 0 0 5 2
Pool 2
Team P W D L Pts
Leinster 6 4 1 1 20
Wasps 6 3 1 2 18
Harlequins 6 4 0 2 18
Castres 6 0 0 6 1
Pool 3
Team P W D L Pts
Toulon 6 5 0 1 22
Leicester Tigers 6 3 0 3 13
Ulster 6 2 0 4 12
Scarlets 6 2 0 4 8
Pool 4
Team P W D L Pts
Bath 6 4 0 2 19
Toulouse 6 4 0 2 17
Glasgow Warriors 6 3 0 3 15
Montpellier 6 1 0 5 6
Pool 5
Team P W D L Pts
Racing Metro 6 5 1 0 24
Northampton Saints 6 4 0 2 19
Ospreys 6 1 1 4 9
Treviso 6 1 0 5 4