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European Challenge Cup opposition preview: The Final

Andrew Lawton
09 May 2018

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Friday brings a mouth-watering prospect as Cardiff Blues go for silverware against Gloucester Rugby in the European Challenge Cup Final.

The Blues started their 2017-18 campaign slowly but have improved throughout and have been in stellar form in recent months in the Guinness PRO14 and in Europe.

But on Friday they are due to meet stout resistance from the English club, and here we take a look at how Gloucester are shaping up.

Friday 11 May

Kick-off: 20:00, San Mamés Stadium, Bilbao

Referee: Jérome Garcès

PEDIGREE

Gloucester’s fourth appearance in the Challenge Cup final means they equal the record set by Harlequins and Bath, and a win would mean they match Harlequins’ record of three triumphs in the competition.

The English club’s first Challenge Cup win came in 2006 as they beat London Irish 36-34 at the Twickenham Stoop, whilst they also defeated Edinburgh Rugby at the same venue in the 2015 final.

Gloucester’s losing final appearance came in last year’s decider against Stade Francais at BT Murrayfield, which they lost 25-17.

The Blues and Gloucester have only met once in the Challenge Cup, with the English outfit running out 45-26 winners at Kingsholm Stadium last season.

FORM

Johan Ackermann’s Gloucester have put in some impressive performances in Europe this season after finishing the pool stages with four wins from six.

They recorded big wins over Agen and Zebre before going on to triumph over Connacht Rugby 33-28 in Galway.

A home semi-final followed and Newcastle Falcons were dispatched 33-12 at Kingsholm, with Tom Marhsall, Billy Burns and Motu Matu’u all touching down.

Since then though two defeats have followed in the English Premiership, first a 43-20 defeat to local rivals Bath and then a 62-12 loss against Saracens at the weekend.

THE TEAM

Gloucester offer threat across the field, with a group of skilful backs and a powerful forward pack.

The back row is particularly strong, with Ruan Ackermann bringing plenty of South African grunt with him this season and former England man Ben Morgan providing the ballast.

Jake Polledri, just 22 years old and recently capped by Italy, is not much smaller than those two men but has pace to burn and has enjoyed a breakthrough season.

In the backs, Henry Trinder often creates moments of magic, as seen in his try against Connacht earlier this season, whilst centres Mark Atkinson and Billy Twelvetrees, if selected, have plenty of playmaking ability.

New Zealand-born full-back Jason Woodward has also had an excellent season and is tipped by many to tour with England this summer.

Guinness PRO14 Final 2018 Ticket Information: Prices start at just €50 at www.ticketmaster.ie with tickets available to suit every experience.
To book hospitality visit: https://www.pro14rugby.org/hospitality
For Travel packages visit: https://www.pro14rugby.org/travel-packages
For Fanzone & Dublin 7s visithttp://www.dublin7sfestival.ie

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