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Here's the Gloucester team out to earn a play-off against Connacht (and a trophy)

David Humphreys’ side are taking on Stade Francais in the Challenge Cup final.

Humphreys and Richard Hibbard celebrate the semi-final win over Top 14 high-fliers La Rochelle.
Humphreys and Richard Hibbard celebrate the semi-final win over Top 14 high-fliers La Rochelle.
Image: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

Updated 13.05, 12 May

ON FRIDAY, CONNACHT will finally learn who they must face in a play-off to keep their hopes of playing Champions Cup rugby next season alive.

Gloucester take on Stade Francais in the Challenge Cup final in Edinburgh tomorrow with a win putting the English side into a home play-off berth against the western province on Saturday week (20 May, kick-off 4pm).

Should they fall to a Stade side featuring Will Genia and Sergio Parisse, Pat Lam will instead bring his side to meet Northampton – who finished seventh in the Premiership – for the Champions Cup play-off semi-final with the added incentive of bringing the play-off final to the Sportsground if they can win in England.

Gloucester have plenty of familiar faces in their ranks, of course, with former Ulster stalwarts David Humphreys and Jonny Bell as director of rugby and defence coach while ex-Munster forwards coach Laurie Fisher left his position as head coach in March.

There are Ulster links in the matchday 23 for tomorrow’s final too (Sky/BT, kick-off 8pm) as John Afoa starts at tighthead with Lisburn’s Paddy McAllister in reserve. The prop is in good company on the bench as Greig Laidlaw and Billy Twelvetrees also have to settle for a place among the replacements.

Wales and England internationals Ross Moriarty and Ben Morgan form a feisty back row behind All Black lock Jeremy Thrush.

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While Connacht’s form has been cause for concern in recent weeks, Lam is hoping that a knock-out game can bring the best out of his side and has continually stressed that the coaching team’s focus has been on the play-off.

“It’s a one-off game now. Everything is geared towards this. We made a conscious decision as coaches because of the situation we’re in… but now it’s just a one-off game, you prepare.

We’ve seen at international level, we’ve seen right through; you can put a line under everything and build towards this game.  We’re playing an English team, outside of our competition — we’ve changed everything, geared towards the game in two weeks.”

Though the Samoan did not reveal any preference between a trip to Gloucester or Northampton, he is intent on leaving the province in the premier European competition as a lasting memory of the impact he made during his time in Galway.

Pat Lam Source: Bryan Keane/INPHO

“It’s important, it’s our minimum goal. For me it would be disappointing if we don’t make it through. It’s because we are good enough to make it through. It highlights that, for whatever reason, that we haven’t been good enough this year.

“We have to go up another level again obviously.”

Gloucester Rugby:

15. Tom Marshall
14. Charlie Sharples
13. Matt Scott
12. Mark Atkinson
11. Jonny May
10. Billy Burns
9. Willi Heinz (captain)

1. Josh Hohneck
2. Richard Hibbard
3. John Afoa
4. Tom Savage
5. Jeremy Thrush
6. Ross Moriarty
7. Lewis Ludlow
8. Ben Morgan

Replacements:

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16. Darren Dawidiuk
17. Yann Thomas
18. Paddy McAllister
19. Mariano Galarza
20. Freddie Clarke
21. Greig Laidlaw
22. Billy Twelvetrees
23. Henry Trinder

Stade Français Paris:

15. Hugo Bonneval
14. Waisea Vuidarvuwalu
13. Geoffrey Doumayrou
12. Jonathan Danty
11. Djibril Camara
10. Jules Plisson
9. Will Genia

1. Heinke Van der Merwe
2. Remi Bonfils
3. Rabah Slimani
4. Hugh Pyle
5. Paul Gabrillagues
6. Antoine Burban
7. Jonathan Ross
8. Sergio Parisse (captain)

Replacements:
16. Laurent Panis
17. Zurabi Zhvania
18. Paul Alo Emile
19. Willem Alberts
20. Raphael Lakafia
21. Julien Dupuy
22. Morné Steyn
23. Jérémy Sinzelle

Referee: John Lacey

Originally published 11 May, updated after EPCR announced date and kick-off times for play-off semi-finals.

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