Gloucester take on Pau tomorrow evening in what will determine who wins their Challenge Cup group, and secure a home tie in the quarter finals. Pau currently lead the group, with 24 points, with Gloucester trailing by three.
Tom Savage has been named as captain as the Cherry and Whites set out to overturn the six point deficit and the three points difference to take the top spot.
Here is Last Word on Rugby’s Gloucester vs Pau preview.
Gloucester: Key Men
Gloucester have set out a very strong pack which will be key to their game plan as they look to target a strong set piece. The scrum was key to their attack when they played Pau in Round One.
With Ross Moriarty, Lewis Ludlow and Ben Morgan setting up in the back row, it’s sure to be a game where they look to carry hard around the fringes and dominate physically.
With a heavy-set tight five, they’re sure to worry the Pau pack. If they utilise their lineout effectively, Gloucester will get the platform to play more expansive rugby.
Providing they get this platform, their experienced backs will go to work trying to penetrate one of the best opposition backlines around. With experienced All Black Conrad Smith in the Pau midfield, Andy Symons and Billy Twelvetrees will have their work cut out.
Home side must utilise their speed out wide
With the likes of Smith and Slade defending the centre channel for Pau it’s key that Gloucester push the ball out wide as early as possible. Ollie Thorley and Henry Purdy have bags of pace and will look to target the space out wide.
Gloucester will carry hard up the middle of the park to create this wide channel. If they get on top and create turnovers look for Ben Vellacott and Billy Burns to deliver quick ball on the counter.
Burns hasn’t underestimated Pau and said that following the loss away they had to get a good run together. He added that they expected the group to come down to this game: ”When we lost out there we knew we couldn’t afford any more slip-ups and we’ve got on pretty well in the group.”
"Home advantage is massive for us this weekend, and we're excited to give the Kingsholm crowd plenty to shout about"
Billy Burns and Tom Savage gear up for Friday's clash with Pau pic.twitter.com/pWFsm2eFu7
— Gloucester Rugby (@gloucesterrugby) January 18, 2018
Burns stated that Gloucester will be aware of Pau’s danger men: ”They’ve got some top quality players and they’re going to be a tough outfit.
“We prepared well and everyone is looking forward to a big challenge.”
Gloucester, unbeaten this season in 11 games in-front of the roaring ‘Shed’ will be a force for anyone and as they look to continue that form into tomorrow’s game.
Burns explained how much last year’s run to the final meant to everyone involved at the club and stated ”We need to win…..It was a massive achievement to get to that final, we felt like we were in a position to win it, but we didn’t quite perform well on the day and that was disappointing.”
Gloucester vs Pau will certainly be a corker of a tie and may be the game that potentially breaks that home winning streak. Gloucester will be aiming for that quarter final home tie but at least know they have qualified. Last Word on Rugby covered all the possible scenarios of the pool earlier this week.
Challenge Cup – Head to Head
Pau head into the match having won four of their last five, compared to Gloucester’s three out of their five. Both sides are coming off the back of a victory, and will be looking to continue that winning sequence leading up to the knock-out stages.
Gloucester vs Pau Preview
Their only previous meeting ended 27-21 to Pau in Round One of this season’s competition. That only indicates how closely they have been – so has anything changed since?
Expect plenty of counter-attacking rugby following on from their previous meeting. That match resulted in 29 turnovers and five stolen lineouts, so the onus now is on ball retention, using the speed out wide and with that, it could be the home sides night.
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