Gloucester look to turn season around

Gloucester look to turn season around

Having finished second from bottom in the Gallagher Premiership last weekend, Gloucester Rugby forwards Ruan Ackermann and Freddie Clarke regard Friday night’s EPCR Challenge Cup final as a chance to land some much-coveted silverware.

The pair also see their attempt to land a record-equalling third EPCR Challenge Cup, against Hollywoodbets Sharks at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, as a foundation for a better overall season next time around.

“The main focus last week was to give the fans a good send-off for the season with the last home game. We all know how important this week is for the club,” said flanker Ackermann, who will be up against a number of familiar faces in the South African team.

“They’ve got some big names, some players who have won World Cups, so from an experience point of view, they’ve been there and done that already.

“But this is Europe, this is something new for them as well, but they’ll be approaching it with confidence and with something that they trust in.”

A source of confidence

Gloucester Rugby’s season was marked by a dreadful start in the Premiership, when they lost six games on the bounce over November, before EPCR Challenge Cup wins against Black Lion in Georgia and at home to ASM Clermont Auvergne arrested the decline.

Premiership form continued to remain iffy, but the EPCR Challenge Cup has been a source of much-needed confidence.

“You celebrate the wins, but when you lose, you have to get closer as a group,” reflected lock Clarke.

“We’ve had some really tough periods this season, there’s no hiding from that, but this competition has been a great way for us to generate momentum.

“For the team, it would be huge. We won it in 2015, we’ve been to two more finals since then and lost. I was a part of that and there’s nothing worse than seeing another team lift the cup. It’s not a season-defining game, but it is pretty close to it.

“A lot of this group will still be together next season and a win here would prove to us we can do it, that we just need to do it over a longer time. A win here would be a huge boost to the boys for next season.”

‘Our game is building nicely’

The Cherry-and-Whites bounced back from a reserve team being given a 90-point shellacking at Northampton Saints two weeks ago to dishing out 50 points to Newcastle Falcons last weekend.  

Head coach George Skivington believes the squad who thrashed Newcastle understood the privilege they’d had by taking some down time the weekend before and that they would deliver a top performance on Friday. 

“Ultimately, we are in a final - it’s why players do what they do,” he said. “The objective is to bring silverware to Gloucester. 

“Our game’s been building nicely over the months. I think we know where we are good and where we are very good when we get it right, and where bits have cost us in some games. 

“But if we focus and commit, we tend to be pretty accurate. There’s no point in changing too much this week. It’s more about hammering down on what we are good at. You’ve just got to throw everything at it and what comes of it, comes.” 

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