WORLD Cup-winning All Black Jimmy Cowan believes Gloucester have got to embrace the pressure that comes with a lowly league position.
A 12-6 victory over relegation-threatened Worcester at Kingsholm last weekend elevated Gloucester to ninth in the Premiership.
But they have still only enjoyed three victories from ten clashes this term and scrum-half Cowan insists the Cherry and Whites must continue to rise to the big occasions, such as the derby clash with Worcester, if they are to clamber up the table.
And despite Christmas “getting in the way” of valuable training time this week, motivation needs to remain sky-high to ensure an away victory at the Madejski Stadium over eleventh-placed London Irish on Sunday.
The 31-year-old said: “I’m a player who embraces the pressure.
“You’ve got to embrace it, because it is part and parcel of the game, part of being a professional rugby player.
“There’s going to be a lot bigger games along the way, I can assure them.
“No doubt some of the boys made mistakes last week as I did, but you’ve got to learn from it, and try not to do it again. It’s about learning and pressure is a part of it.
“I enjoy the big occasions. I knew the importance of the Worcester game; I knew there was pressure there to perform.
“But when you get to a stage like that, you’ve got to worry about your own performance rather than worrying about the outcome.
“You concentrate on your role, what you bring to the team structure, and if you get all 23 players doing that the outcome will take care of itself.
“Worcester was a starting point, a win at home. And hopefully we can go to London Irish on Sunday and build on this.”
For Cowan, winning invites respect in the Premiership, and Gloucester have been on the wrong side of the result too many times this season.
But he cannot fault the mindset and the character with which Gloucester have approached games, and once again, the tie with London Irish must be treated like a cup final.
Cowan continued: “We are not where we want to be, and we are a far better outfit than what we have showed so far.
“Sometimes that happens with this sport, but we got ourselves into this and we can certainly get ourselves out of it.
“We will keep putting the work in and I’m sure if we do that and play with the character we have shown over the past four weeks, we can get a good platform.
“We have knuckled down this week, despite Christmas and will hopefully go down to London Irish and pick up a win.
“And it doesn’t get any easier, we’ve got Saracens at home in the new year (Saturday, January 4) and then back into the Heineken Cup.
“But that’s what you play the game for. You win some, you lose some, but we have been on our fair share of losing so hopefully we can start winning some.
“We are at a stage now where we’ve got to win most of our games, and without a doubt we must beat London Irish, for a bit of respect.”
And it is not just the pressure to perform that rests on the Kiwi’s shoulders.
Cowan’s future at Kingsholm is uncertain as the halfback has not yet secured a new contract.
But the former Southland man easily banishes the doubts about next season when he runs out in front of the Shed at Kingsholm.
Cowan continued: “I’ve been in the game long enough, 12 years, and it’s part and parcel of the game.
“Most modern rugby players accept it’s the nature of the professional sport and I don’t base my performance on whether I re-sign, or whether they want me or not.
“It’s not the be-and-end-all whether I stay or go, but it’s been fantastic to play here, and play in front of the home crowd. That’s rugby.”