Euro Preview: Gloucester v Bordeaux

Date published: May 29 2015

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Two of the best attacking sides in Europe will meet at Sixways to contest the final spot in next year's Champions Cup.

Gloucester battled past Connacht to reach this stage, while Bordeaux-Bègles will have to recover from the disappointment of missing the Top 14 play-offs.

Raphael Ibanez's side missed out in the cruellest of circumstances, Lionel Beauxis missing a penalty from in front with the final kick of the game at Toulouse.

It capped a season of near misses, having already lost three games by a single point at home. Bordeaux probably should have made the top six.

At their best, they are irresistible, but that has rarely happened on the road, which should give Gloucester plenty of confidence.

While the Cherry & Whites had an underwhelming domestic campaign, they were flawless in Europe, sweeping through their group before claiming the Challenge Cup with a win over Edinburgh.

That set up the play-off clash with Connacht last week, which they won after extra-time to earn the right to host this week's game, although a music concert has seen it moved from Kingsholm to Worcester.

It certainly hasn't all been plain sailing for Gloucester, but they have some key players coming into form, not least England hopeful Jonny May.

His extra-time score against Connacht was as good a try as you'll see this season, and given the attacking tendencies of both sides, we should see more of the same this weekend.

Of course Bordeaux have danger men of their own, Metuisela Talebula and Blair Connor are a match for any pair of wingers in terms of attacking threat.

It may come down to who copes better up front, with both teams having had their struggles in the pack. Matt Kvesic has enjoyed a fine season for Gloucester, but has been a bit of a lone wolf at times.

Bordeaux have lots of great handling forwards, but on occasion lack the power and ball-carrying to burst through stubborn defences.

In team news, Tongan international forward Sione Kalamafoni returns after injury to take up his usual place in the Gloucester back row.

Kalamafoni's selection, his first since limping off against Newcastle just over a month ago, is one of just two changes to the Gloucester starting line up from the one that defeated Connacht last Sunday.

Kalamafoni will start at blindside, with Jacob Rowan moving across to openside and Dan Thomas moving to the bench.

Meanwhile, in the backs, Rob Cook will start at full-back having been a replacement against Connacht. Charlie Sharples will move to the wing to accommodate him and Henry Purdy is named amongst the replacements.

Ones to watch: It's hard to look past the in-form Jonny May, who is proving why England were so desperate to get him involved. While he hasn't quite made it at Test level, he's looking back to his best and could be a difference maker.

Meanwhile for Bordeaux, the performance of Louis-Benoit Madaule in the back row could be crucial. His constant presence hunting down the ball will be key to stopping Kvesic and allowing Bordeaux to play their fast, offloading game. If he can manage that, Bordeaux could be tough to stop.

Prediction: At their best, Bordeaux are probably the better side, as they showed when they stuck 50 points on Clermont earlier this season. They've gone a little off the boil though, unlike Gloucester, and come into the game on the back of a heartbreaking loss at Toulouse. Add in home country advantage and Gloucester should just have the edge. Gloucester by 5!

The teams:

Gloucester: 15 Rob Cook, 14 Charlie Sharples, 13 Bill Meakes, 12 Billy Twelvetrees (c), 11 Jonny May, 10 James Hook, 9 Greig Laidlaw, 8 Ross Moriarty, 7 Jacob Rowan, 6 Sione Kalamafoni, 5 Tom Palmer, 4 Tom Savage, 3 John Afoa, 2 Richard Hibbard, 1 Nick Wood.
Replacements: 16 Darren Dawidiuk, 17 Yann Thomas, 18 Shaun Knight, 19 Elliott Stooke, 20 Dan Thomas, 21 Dan Robson, 22 Billy Burns, 23 Henry Purdy

Bordeaux-Bègles: tbc

Date: Sunday, 31 May
Venue: Sixways, Worcester
Kick-off: 17:00 local
Referee: Leighton Hodges (Wales)
Assistant referees: Dudley Phillips (Ireland), Rhys Thomas (Wales)
TMO: Jim Yuille (Scotland)

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