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PREVIEW: Humphreys wary of Connacht threat

Monday 30th March 2015

12:00 am (GMT)

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En danger dans la poule 4 d'European Rugby Challenge Cup

En danger dans la poule 4 d'European Rugby Challenge Cup

Nobody knows better than Gloucester Rugby director of rugby David Humphreys the kind of threat Connacht Rugby will pose at Kingsholm in the European Rugby Challenge Cup quarter-final after years of titanic tussles as a player and manager at Ulster Rugby.

And the Gloucester boss had some harsh words for his players in the wake of their 23-6 defeat at Sale Sharks on Sunday that cost them the chance of moving up a place in the Aviva Premiership from ninth.

“It was a very disappointing performance, especially as we went into the game on the back of some good preparation and on the back of a good performance against Northampton Saints,” said Humphreys.

“We didn’t bring enough energy or enthusiasm into the game and Sale showed us how to win a game that wasn’t great. It was a good dress rehearsal for what we will face against Connacht because we will have to be a huge amount better in all aspects of our game.

“Friday night was always going to be difficult with only a five day turn-around and we know Connacht are going to bring a hugely physical game with them to Kingsholm. Under Pat Lam, they have also become more expansive than they used to be.

“It is a huge game for the club and if we want to win it and progress in the tournament we will have to bring our own physicality to the game. We’ve known for a while the European campaign was something we could take away with us from this season.”

Gloucester got a taste of Europe last week when they headed to Tenerife for a week long training camp, but it will be back to basics at their normal training base this week to prepare for the challenge of Connacht.

Scottish skipper Greig Laidlaw will be ready to return after RBS 6 Nations duty and former Leinster Rugby centre Brendan Macken will also come into the mix having been registered as an extra player for the knock-out stages.

Gloucester romped through their pool and ended up as the No 1 seeds with 29 out of a possible 30 points with six out of six – four points more than any other quarter-finalist managed. The west countrymen last won the Challenge Cup back in 2006 and will be hoping to use the tournament as a potential lifeline into next season’s Champions Cup if they can repeat that success.

As for Connacht, they have converted three of their previous seven quarter-finals in the competition into last four places, but have yet to go all the way to the final. It took the full might of Exeter Chiefs, twice, to check their progress in Pool 2, but Lam’s men were still good enough to sneak into the last eight.

Injuries, especially behind the scrum, have caused difficulties in recent weeks and they shipped six tries at Thomond Park last weekend in a heavy defeat to Munster. But Lam remains hopeful of tightening up his defence this week, getting a more representative side on the field at Kingsholm and giving it a major rattle on Friday night.

“We’ve seen already as we’ve done our preparation that Gloucester are full of international players, have big units and are physical. They have a direct team and we just have to hold out longer defensively than we did in Munster,” said Lam.

Match Facts

  • Matt Kvesic won a competition high 10 turnovers in the pool stage for Gloucester.
  • Gloucester conceded fewer points and tries than any other team in the pool stage of this year’s Challenge Cup.
  • Gloucester conceded just one try in the first half of their pool stage matches, no other side was as miserly as this.
  • Connacht’s points difference in the 20 minutes after half time was -28 in the pool stage, only Rovigo and Bucharest had a worse record.
  • Gloucester have won both previous meetings with Connacht, winning their Champions Cup pool stage encounters in 2011.
  • Gloucester have been knocked out at the quarter-final stage of the Challenge Cup on the last three occasions they have reached it; 2010, 2013 and 2014.
  • Connacht have lost 11 of their last 12 games of European rugby (inc. Champions Cup) against English opposition.
  • Gloucester have lost just two of their last 15 home games in this competition, with both of those defeats coming against French opposition.
  • Gloucester scored more tries following a scrum (4) than any other side in the pool stages of this year’s tournament.
  • Hallam Amos (12) was the only player to make more clean breaks than Connacht’s Matt Healy (11) in the pool stage of this year’s competition.

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REPORT: Gloucester hang on to earn home semi

Friday 3rd April 2015

12:00 am (GMT)

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Les Cherry and White ont dominé le Connacht (14-7) et sont les premiers à valider leur billet pour les demi-finales de la Challenge Cup

Les Cherry and White ont dominé le Connacht (14-7) et sont les premiers à valider leur billet pour les demi-finales de la Challenge Cup

Gloucester Rugby survived a late comeback from Connacht Rugby to set up an all-English European Rugby Challenge Cup semi-final.

The Cherry and Whites maintained their 100% winning record in this season's competition with a 14-7 triumph and will now face the winner of either Exeter Chiefs or Newcastle Falcons in the last four.

First-half tries from Charlie Sharples and Bill Meakes had given the home side a commanding 14-0 half-time lead, but a penalty try 15 minutes from time ensured a tense finish at a packed Kingsholm. Connacht managed to get themselves deep into the Gloucester half late-on, but couldn’t find that all-important second try to set up extra-time.

After a slow start to the game Gloucester's England wing Sharples scored the game’s opening try following excellent work from Wales international James Hook, who broke clear from inside his own half and went past two Connacht tacklers.

Hook was then heavily involved in Gloucester’s second try just after half an hour when he chipped the ball through the Connacht back-line and it popped up into the arms of the grateful home centre Bill Meakes, who dived over for the second home try which Greig Laidlaw converted
Former All Blacks full-back Mils Muliaina was forced off the field for Connacht just before half-time as they struggled to threaten the home side’s try-line in the opening 40 minutes. Laidlaw then had an excellent chance to put Gloucester further in front just after the hour mark, but the Scotland skipper pulled his penalty wide of the left-hand post.

That set up a nervous final quarter of an hour and Connacht were given a boost when they were awarded a penalty try for Gloucester dragging down a driving line-out on their own line. But it proved to be too little, too late for the visitors who were left with nothing to show for a much-improved display after the break.

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