Gloucester Rugby: There are no dead games when it's Bath time!
THERE'S no such thing as a dead rubber against Bath, believes buoyant Ryan Mills.
The fit-again playmaker is desperate for Gloucester to maintain the bragging rights against their fierce local rivals this weekend.
Gloucester host the Blue Black and Whites in LV=Cup action at Kingsholm on Saturday (kick-off 2pm), with no possibility of progressing to the semi-finals.
The Cherry and Whites' 26-7 Northampton defeat last weekend ended their Anglo-Welsh Cup hopes – but England Under-20s cap Mills said a meaningless game against Bath does not exist.
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A month of pivotal Premiership fixtures will follow Saturday's final LV=Cup clash.
Gloucester's four-game run against Northampton, Wasps, Worcester and Bath will make or break their Premiership play-off ambitions.
Mills believes motivation for Saturday's West Country derby could never be in short supply – but Gloucester's upcoming league sequence just heaps extra spice to proceedings.
The 20-year-old explained: "It's never a friendly, a game at home against Bath in a Gloucester shirt – no one will ever take that lightly.
"It's a grudge match when you play against Bath, no matter what.
"No matter the circumstances, the competition or what's on the line, I don't think anyone picked for that game will be taking it lightly at all."
Gloucester have not lost to Bath at Kingsholm since an 18-15 defeat on February 5, 2006.
The Cherry and Whites boast consecutive Premiership doubles over their bitter rivals, and saw off Bath 16-10 in league action at Kingsholm in October.
Nerveless Mills slotted the winning penalty at a sodden Recreation Ground in Gloucester's 14-11 Premiership victory in February, and would love to inflict more pain on the Cherry and Whites' traditional enemy.
The Kingsholm men's last defeat to Bath came at The Rec in December 2009 – and Mills admitted Gloucester are hell-bent on extending that growing dominance.
He continued: "It's obviously frustrating that we cannot progress in this competition, because Gloucester have a strong recent record in the LV=Cup.
"But no one will dwell on any of that now: we've got a massive run of league games ahead of us, and the best way to return to all of that would be to get another win against our local rivals.
"That was a seriously close game last season, and generally whenever we play Bath it turns out to be a tense but exciting encounter.
"I can't imagine it will be anything different this time around – we are fully prepared for a full-blooded derby game, and looking forward to it."
Relieved to have tasted his first action this season after knee surgery, Mills was encouraged by Gloucester's general defensive showing despite Saturday's Northampton defeat.
The Saints might have butchered several gilt-edged chances, but Mills reckons Gloucester's organisation also forced them to kick away more possession than they would have wanted.
He added: "We coped pretty well to be honest, because our defence was pretty good.
"It just felt like we shut them down quite well, and that left their only option to try a clever kick or something.
"And if we get to that point, I think that's job done by our defence.
"We created more chances than we immediately realised as well – but then cheap penalties let us down.
"So we're definitely going to have to sharpen up against Bath this weekend.
"There were a lot of young players in that side, and every time you are exposed to first team rugby, you improve.
"Just the experience of it all, it builds confidence, settles nerves – you might not see the benefit overnight, but over time it definitely improves players.
"It's great to have my first game after the injury out of the way, without any knocks or problems.
"Hopefully I can move forward pretty quickly now."