Shaun Knight: Gloucester-Bath rivalry is so deep, we can't lose this game
GLOUCESTER supporter Shaun Knight believes the current Cherry and Whites squad know the full importance of the West Country derby – they rate it the biggest rivalry in the Premiership.
Tighthead prop Knight grew up on a diet of Gloucester-Bath derbies, and cannot wait to get stuck into the Blue, Black and Whites at Kingsholm tomorrow (kick-off 2.15pm).
Matson-born Knight said Gloucester's local boys and long-serving stalwarts have been underlining the wider significance of the derby to the rest of the squad this week.
But the 22-year-old said there has been little need to crank up the atmosphere and the gritty front-rower reckons the Cherry and Whites are ready for battle.
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Knight explained: "There's never a fear of being up for this game mentally, there's no trouble with that – it's the biggest rivalry in the Premiership I think.
"I always watched Gloucester when I was younger, and the Bath game, the passion for that is the next level.
"I think the same as the fans, it's the same mentality.
"It's a deep, deep rivalry, you just can't lose this game – and that's the mentality that the whole squad has this weekend.
"This is the game the supporters want us to win more than any other.
"And this is the game we really want to win as a group too.
"We want to do the fans proud, and we also want to do ourselves justice."
Anticipating a tetchy encounter, Knight said Gloucester must keep their raw emotion in check – or face punishment by penalty from a Bath side that wants to squeeze opponents rather than pull them apart.
He continued: "Bath are kicking a lot more this year, so if we get too hot over the edge of emotion, they will punish us.
"So we've got to make sure we don't give them anything.
"The passion will be there but we can't afford to get too hyped up, because we'd pay for it.
"If we could get the win, then we could be in the top-four going into the league break, and that's what everyone's thinking."
Delighted with his first try in three years –and his first in senior Gloucester colours – in last weekend's 31-25 London Welsh victory, Knight said the Cherry and Whites have already shown quick progress under Nigel Davies.
Keen to help elevate Gloucester's already-powerful scrummaging to new heights, Knight said that battle is far more technical than mental.
He continued: "We're getting there in the scrum, it's been going well but we've got to take it to the next level every week.
"Bath at Kingsholm, there's no better game than to step it up than that.
"It's mostly technical stuff.
"Everyone's mentally up for it – if you're not you'll go backwards.
"But Tony Windo has just been reiterating the small things, so that everyone's on the same page – that's much more important than having people foaming at the mouth.
"If you're doing good things then you're always going to get banter for it, that's just the way it works here.
"So if you're taking stick then hopefully you're doing something right.
"That's my first try for Gloucester, and it was a really special moment for me, so I'll hold onto that one for a while!
"I hadn't scored for nearly three years: my last try was for Cinderford.
"So it was special enough scoring at all, let alone scoring in a Gloucester shirt in a Premiership game.
"It makes you look at how things have progressed in that time, and things are going well.
"It's great to be coming through the system, and hopefully that can all continue.
"And it was a great victory for us too, which was the most important thing.
"I can assure you now Welsh are one of the most physical sides in the league, and they've only just come up.
"We made sure we got through enough contact work last week to be ready for them.
"Last season we would have lost those games on the road that we've already won.
"Obviously we lost the corresponding Worcester and London Irish fixtures – but put last year's team in the scenarios of this season's matches at Worcester and Irish, and they probably wouldn't have been wins.
"So that's definite progress.
"There's a great attitude around the place now, everyone's playing for each other and no one's giving up."