Belfast Telegraph

Home Sport Rugby

Gloucester aim to make a statement in France

Gloucester will aim to take a major stride towards this season's European Challenge Cup quarter-finals when they tackle La Rochelle in France on Saturday.

If they can complete a quickfire double over their opponents in Pool One, then Gloucester could open a nine or 10-point gap at the group summit with two games left next month.

Gloucester beat La Rochelle 35-14 last week, but forwards coach Trevor Woodman said: "It was the same when we went there last year, when it was a tough old battle.

"We know it's all going to be pretty much in and around that set-piece area, and we know that we have to go out and dominate.

"We have to make sure we don't concede field position through anything sloppy in terms of our set-piece or turning the ball over, and deny them the opportunity to get into their power game.

"La Rochelle are going to be a huge test for us, a team that is top four in the Top 14."

Scrum-half Callum Braley will captain Gloucester, who also field lock Jeremy Thrush for his first appearance of the season, plus the likes of James Hook, Charlie Sharples, Jonny May, Richard Hibbard, John Afoa and Ben Morgan.

Harlequins will overtake Edinburgh at the top of Pool Five if, as expected, they beat Twickenham Stoop visitors Timisoara Saracens on Saturday.

Quins won comfortably in Romania last weekend, and their team is strengthened this time time around by returning internationals Mike Brown, Tim Visser, Jamie Roberts and Marland Yarde.

"Having secured the bonus point win in Romania last week, it is vital that we follow this up at The Stoop on Saturday," Quins rugby director John Kingston said

"The group remain very focused in their quest to make the knockout stages of this competition, with the defeat in last year's final the constant source of motivation."

Like Gloucester, leading Welsh challengers the Ospreys will head closer to the last-eight if they see off Liberty Stadium vistors Grenoble on Saturday.

Ospreys head coach Steve Tandy said: "We've done a good job over the first three rounds to put ourselves in a position where we are in control of the pool and our fate, and that is all you can ask for at the halfway point.

"Our next two games in the competition are at home, which gives us a real opportunity to make a statement, and that's what we want to do.

"It is important we realise that for all the good stuff we've seen so far, we haven't achieved anything in real terms yet, and we need to ensure that effort isn't wasted.

"It's a busy period of big matches that will have a huge impact on the season. Four of the next five games are at the Liberty, with the Scarlets up next, then games against Connacht and Lyon in January after the Dragons away game.

"We've put ourselves in a good place in Europe and the PRO12, and it's important that we keep plugging away over the coming weeks."

Popular

From Belfast Telegraph