WEST Country derby bragging rights are not the only battle at Kingsholm on Saturday – Gloucester will be fighting for starting shirts and even new contracts, believes Jimmy Cowan.
The All Black World Cup winner hopes derby skirmishes bring out the best in him, but he also admits it is his duty to do his team-mates and friends justice.
Rugby director Nigel Davies is well advanced with his new contract plans for Gloucester's existing stars.
The majority of the current squad will be retained, but a harsh reality of professional rugby is that every season, some players leave every club.
The situation will be no different at Gloucester this year, but Cowan believes every Cherry and Whites player has a responsibility to help the next earn a new contract.
Cowan appreciates his privileged position of being in the first of a two-year Gloucester deal and that he does not have to earn new terms in this campaign.
Fellow scrum-halves Dan Robson, Dave Lewis and Brad Field have all been striving to earn new deals for next season.
Robson is among a nucleus of stars to have all but tied up a new contract, though nothing official has yet been confirmed.
Lewis and Field could therefore be battling for a final scrum-half slot.
Former Highlander half-back Cowan is acutely aware similar sub-plots run right through the Gloucester squad.
And when the Cherry and Whites face Bath at Kingsholm in the LV=Cup on Saturday (kick-off 2pm), he admitted he must produce his best rugby, not only to pay due respect to the fierce derby rivalry but also to help any of his team-mates battling for new Gloucester deals.
The 30-year-old said: "These games are a great opportunity for guys to come in, prove a point, and say, 'Hey, don't forget about me, I'm still here too'.
"We've seen guys put their hands up and perform in the jersey. Some are battling to get back in the team, others for their futures.
"No one would ever take either of those challenges lightly.
"The derby motivation gives us everything and more that we need this week to get focused.
"But add in playing alongside guys who are your mates who are trying to prove their point, to fight for a jersey or even a contract, and you just cannot afford to let those guys down.
"As a team we have a responsibility to ourselves, the management and our great supporters.
"But then we also have a responsibility to each other. When you go out there, you've got to do your team-mates justice, you've got to hit a certain standard to do them proud too."
Aware of his senior-player status at Kingsholm, Cowan is happy to help his scrum-half counterparts develop but admitted he has just as much to learn from the likes of Robson and Lewis as he has to teach.
He said: "You look at Dan, Dave and Brad, they are top-quality half-backs.
"It's only second-nature to pass my knowledge on, so I've been trying to help their game.
"Dan has really fronted up over the last few months, but so has Dave too – he played really well last weekend.
"When they do have questions I try my best to have an answer for them.
"But just because I've been around a while it doesn't mean I know everything, far from it.
"You can never stop learning and I have been learning a massive amount from those guys too.
"So I would say it's definitely a case of us helping each other out.
"Yes we're competing for the nine shirt, but we're here for the club's sake at the end of the day, and as long as we all work hard to improve together, that's the most important thing."
Cowan made his debut in Gloucester's 16-10 Kingsholm Premiership victory over Bath on October 6.
Keen to help the Cherry and Whites continue their winning streak over their rivals, he said derby experience from home club Southland in New Zealand should stand him in good stead.
He added: "Southland-Otago is the biggie, the two clubs feed into the Highlanders Super Rugby franchise.
"Otago used to be the big brother, but over time we had managed to turn the tables on that.
"It's similar in Southland as it is to Gloucester in that the people do not expect their team to lose to Otago.
"I absolutely loved that first game against Bath, and I bet this will be no different this weekend.
"They will be fielding a strong team and it's going to be one hell of a match.
"Just what I've been picking up from our meetings this week, you can see the emotion and passion when the coaches and players speak.
"I certainly know what it means now. It's win at all costs."