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Twelvetrees targets European glory

Published 29/04/2015

Gloucester centre BillyTwelvetrees hopes to get his hands on a European trophy
Gloucester centre BillyTwelvetrees hopes to get his hands on a European trophy

Billy Twelvetrees acknowledges that Gloucester can end their season with "a huge bonus" after experiencing an erratic Aviva Premiership campaign.

Gloucester currently lie ninth in the table following eight wins from 20 league starts, leaving them way off the title play-off pace.

But the west country club will have silverware in their sights on Friday night when they contest this season's European Challenge Cup final against Edinburgh at the Twickenham Stoop.

And if they lift the trophy, it would also take Gloucester into a play-off against Guinness PRO12 opposition next month, with the winners of that game then meeting the seventh-placed French Top 14 finishers for a prized place in next season's European Champions Cup.

"With the up-and-down season we have had, potentially winning on Friday and the play-off system to get into the top tier of Europe will be a huge bonus," Gloucester captain Twelvetrees said.

"Europe has been great for us, to go places and win where we have never won before - and getting a home quarter-final and semi-final on the back of that - was crucial for us.

"To take that momentum into Friday is massive.

"We set our goals at the beginning of the year and one of those was to get silverware.

"To be involved in a European final is massive for a group of players that has just come together and to lift silverware individually is big for us.

"There are young players in the squad who have not experienced finals before and others with experience who have spoken well this week."

A batch of high-profile new signings last summer - international stars like James Hook, Greig Laidlaw, Richard Hibbard and John Afoa - led some to believe that Gloucester would immediately become a major Premiership force.

The reality, though, has been somewhat different, and Gloucester remain very much a work in progress under the guidance of new rugby director David Humphreys and head coach Laurie Fisher.

"As a new group of players and coaches coming together, we targeted every game as a learning process for us," England centre Twelvetrees added.

"It has been about building momentum, getting to know each other as quickly as we can and getting to know our structure and game-plan. Belief grows on the back of that.

"We have ambitions to be in that top six and top four in a couple of years, and this (European final) is a stepping stone towards that.

"It builds belief and confidence in the squad that we can do that. That has shown in the last couple of weeks and it would be a great boost to get over the line on Friday."

And Twelvetrees accepts that having such a wealth of experience alongside him is critical for Gloucester, both now and moving forward into next season.

"The good thing about this team is we have a lot of guys who have been there and done it," he said.

"John Afoa is a World Cup winner, Greig Laidlaw is Scotland captain, James Hook has 77 caps, Richard Hibbard is a Test (British and Irish) Lion.

"The boys want to play for each other, we have huge belief in what we're doing. All 23 players on a match-day want to put their bodies on the line.

"It's winner takes all on Friday and it will be the same for Edinburgh. These big games are where players have to stand up, and it's where you want to stand up and be counted."

Gloucester are set to announce their team on Thursday for the final, with back-row forward Sione Kalamafoni their major fitness concern following last weekend's Premiership win against Newcastle.

Tonga international Kalamafoni has a leg injury, and Humphreys said: "He is working with our medical team and we will see how he progresses. He is the biggest doubt."

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