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Worcester's Challenge Cup hopes lifted by return of Pennell and Te'o

Published 21/10/2016

Chris Pennell returns to action for Worcester against European Challenge Cup opponents Brive on Saturday
Chris Pennell returns to action for Worcester against European Challenge Cup opponents Brive on Saturday

Worcester's hopes of igniting their European Challenge Cup campaign have been boosted by the return of star backs Chris Pennell and Ben Te'o.

Full-back Pennell has not played since May, while England squad member Te'o also found himself sidelined this season, but both players are back for Saturday's Sixways appointment with Pool Three opponents Brive.

Worcester suffered a surprise 19-12 defeat against Enisei-STM in Moscow last weekend, while Brive came unstuck at Newport Gwent Dragons.

"Brive are a very typical French team with big, physical forwards," Worcester backs coach Sam Vesty said. "They have some really good players and are a dangerous outfit.

"We want to keep the thread of the team consistent, but there will be a few bigger names in the squad every now and then.

"(Chris) Pennell is looking really sharp, and he's a guy who is so consistent in performance and in training."

Gloucester, fresh from an impressive Pool One away victory over Bayonne last Saturday, will target a first home win of the season when Treviso visit Kingsholm.

The west country club show eight changes, with hooker Motu Matu'u making his first start, while the likes of Charlie Sharples, Billy Burns, Greig Laidlaw, Matt Kvesic and Ross Moriarty all return to action.

"It's never easy to go and play in France, and to come away with a pretty comprehensive win is great and boosts morale," Gloucester defence coach Jonny Bell said.

"We just want a really strong, professional performance (on Saturday). We've got a duty to deliver for our fans at home.

"Moving from a good performance against Bayonne, making improvements and putting in a strong performance against Treviso will set us well, going back into the Aviva Premiership."

Harlequins, having brushed aside perceived main Pool Five rivals Stade Francais last week, will take another step towards the quarter-finals if they beat Murrayfield hosts Edinburgh on Saturday.

England scrum-half Danny Care returns following a rib injury on the replacements' bench, with Nick Evans reclaiming the number 10 shirt, but lock George Merrick misses out due to a neck injury and is replaced by Sam Twomey.

Quins rugby director John Kingston said: "We are well aware of the tough challenge that Edinburgh will present.

"That said, we had an excellent start to our European campaign last week at home to Stade, and are now very keen to back that up this weekend in a competition which we hold in very high regard."

Also in action on Saturday are opening weekend winners the Dragons, who travel to meet Enisei-STM, and the Ospreys, who face Lyon in France.

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