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Gloucester hope for cup lift against Dragons

Published 08/04/2016

Wales international hooker Richard Hibbard will return to the Gloucester team for Saturday's European Challenge Cup quarter-final against Newport Gwent Dragons
Wales international hooker Richard Hibbard will return to the Gloucester team for Saturday's European Challenge Cup quarter-final against Newport Gwent Dragons

Gloucester will aim to put a run of defeats in domestic competition behind them when they resume European Challenge Cup business on Saturday.

The west country club last claimed a league win on March 5, since when they have come unstuck against Worcester, London Irish, Bath and latterly Leicester, where Gloucester lost despite leading 27-10 just before half-time.

They are edging closer, though, towards a possible successful Challenge Cup defence, with Newport Gwent Dragons their quarter-final opponents at Kingsholm this weekend.

"You get one chance at knockout rugby, and we know how important this game is in the context of the season," Gloucester rugby director David Humphreys said.

"We understand how desperate the Dragons will be to win the game, and that they've been here before in that last season they got through to the semi-finals of the competition.

"Teams that reach the quarter-finals have earned the right to be there. They are going to be very competitive.

"They are similar to ourselves in many ways in that they've had a disappointing league campaign, and this gives them the chance to keep the season going a little bit.

"So, they will be tough cup opponents, but our focus has been very much on ourselves. We are going in with a clear game plan, with a clear idea of what we think we will need to do to beat the Dragons."

Gloucester show three changes from the side beaten by Leicester, with hooker Richard Hibbard, prop John Afoa and back-row forward Sione Kalamafoni all handed starts, while the Dragons line-up features Wales internationals Taulupe Faletau, Hallam Amos and Tyler Morgan.

Harlequins - minus their suspended England prop Joe Marler - are also in Challenge Cup action on Saturday, hosting Aviva Premiership relegation favourites London Irish.

Mark Lambert replaces Marler as one of five changes following last weekend's victory over Newcastle - centre George Lowe, prop Adam Jones, lock Sam Twomey and flanker Luke Wallace also start - while the Irish line-up includes former Quins players Joe Trayfoot and Tom Guest.

The quarter-final programme will be completed at Stade des Alpes on Saturday night, when Guinness PRO 12 title challengers Connacht face a Grenoble side coached by one of their former players Bernard Jackman.

"It is going to be a massive occasion for the town of Grenoble and the club," Jackman said.

"And having reached the last eight the target now has to be to go all the way to the final in Lyon. It is only an hour up the road, and it would be a great moment for the club to reach a European final.

"To do that, it is important that we don't lose our ambition as a team and continue to look to express ourselves. It is easy to coach conservative rugby, but that is not what we are looking for at Grenoble."

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