Connacht ready to battle Gloucester for Champions Cup play-off place

Pat Lam says players are battered and bruised but hugely motivated for trip to Kingsholm

John Cooney comes in at scrumhalf for Connacht with Kieran Marmion out injured. Photograph: Matteo Ciambelli/Inpho

John Cooney comes in at scrumhalf for Connacht with Kieran Marmion out injured. Photograph: Matteo Ciambelli/Inpho

 

With eight Connacht names in the Emerging Ireland squad, Pat Lam’s side can look forward to travelling to Gloucester with some vim. But David Humphreys rested his front-liners last week in anticipation of a frothy meeting today in Kingsholm.

Gloucester retain just three of last week’s starters against Bath with a wave of international players returning.

The winner of Sunday’s match will progress to a final Champions Cup play-off match against the seventh-placed side from the French Top 14 (that could be Racing Métro, Oyonnax, Bordeaux or Montpellier).

Ligament tear

John CooneyGeorge Naoupu

The importance of the match for Connacht can’t be overstated but they travel to England as outsiders to make it through. Billy Twelvetrees will skipper a Gloucester side that sees the return of seven other internationals – Charlie Sharples, Jonny May, James Hook, Greig Laidlaw, Richard Hibbard, John Afoa and Tom Palmer.

Gloucester survived a late comeback from Connacht to prevail in the Challenge Cup quarterfinal at Kingsholm last month.

Meakes and Ross Moriarty return having served suspensions picked up in Gloucester’s Challenge Cup Final victory over Edinburgh three weeks ago, while Connacht must battle with an injury list of 16 players.

“We’re going up against a quality Gloucester side stacked with international players and coming off the back of a week’s rest,” said Lam. “There’s no doubt they have the advantage playing in their home ground so we know we will have to be at our very best as a team.

“While seventh is a record finish for Connacht rugby in the PRO12, we still have this opportunity to secure that final place, so there’s huge motivation.

“Win and we’ll be at home the following Sunday in front of our home crowd. Connacht has never been in this position before. It’s knockout rugby; we may be battered and bruised but we’re massively excited by it.”

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