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European Challenge Cup final preview: Cardiff Blues v Gloucester Rugby

Andrew Lawton
10 May 2018

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Bilbao is the scene for two European showdowns this weekend, starting on Friday with Cardiff Blues’ assault on the Challenge Cup against Premiership side Gloucester.

The Guinness PRO14 outfit are out for revenge after the Cherry & Whites knocked them out of last season’s Challenge Cup at the quarter-final stage, the Blues losing 46-26 at Kingsholm.

A late Dan Biggar drop goal consigned the Blues to defeat in their Judgement Day fixture against the Ospreys, but with just two defeats in the Guinness PRO14 since the beginning of January, Cardiff are heading to the San Mames Stadium in good form.

Gloucester meanwhile ended their Premiership campaign with successive heavy defeats, against local rivals Bath and then Saracens, leaving them seventh in the final standings.

The Blues won the Challenge Cup in 2010, becoming the first Welsh side to win European silverware in the process.

But Gloucester have previous in this competition, reaching their third final in the past four years, lifting the trophy in 2015 and finishing as runners-up last season.

TEAM NEWS

Ellis Jenkins will lead out the Blues in Bilbao and is one of ten changes to the side that lost narrowly to Ospreys a fortnight ago.

Taufa’ao Filise is selected at tight-head prop and will be looking to win the Challenge Cup for a second time in his final appearance for the region, as the only remaining member of the victorious 2010 squad.

Gethin Jenkins and Alex Cuthbert miss out due to injury, with Rhys Gill and Blaine Scully coming in to replace them, but head coach Danny Wilson has opted to stick with the majority of his starting XV that were so impressive in the Blues’ semi-final win over Pau.

Gloucester rested almost their entire team for their final league outing against Saracens, but head coach Johan Ackermann has called on the players that lost out to Bath to bring the Challenge Cup back to Kingsholm.

The one change from that side is Ruan Ackermann replacing England’s Ben Morgan at No.8.

TALKING POINTS

Cardiff Blues head coach Danny Wilson said: “It has been a great achievement to reach this stage but we will now settle for nothing less than winning on Friday night.

“We are all determined to deliver some silverware to the region.

“Losing Gethin, and all the experience and leadership he brings, is obviously a blow but Rhys Gill is a more than capable replacement and I have run out of superlatives for Taufa’ao Filise.

“It promises to be an electric occasion between two sides that like to run the ball and play attacking rugby.

“It is great to hear so many Cardiff Blues fans are making the trip over to Bilbao.

“These are the games and occasions you want to be part of, we have trained well throughout the week and cannot wait until kick-off.”

KEY STATS

  • Cardiff Blues’ flanker Josh Navidi has made 96 tackles in this season’s Challenge Cup, bettered only by Mathieu De Giovanni of Stade Francais.
  • As a team, Gloucester have made 1,119 tackles in this year’s Challenge Cup, more than any other side.
  • Gloucester’s Henry Purdy has made 13 clean breaks in the Challenge Cup this season, matched only by Newcastle Falcons Adam Radwan.

Guinness PRO14 Final 2018 Ticket Information: Prices start at just €35 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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