European Challenge Cup preview: Two Thursday clashes, with Gloucester hosting Worcester
Two European Challenge Cup games take place on Thursday, with Gloucester hosting Worcester Warriors while Montpellier take on Cardiff Blues in France. Both clashes kick off at 19:45.
GLOUCESTER V WORCESTER WARRIORS
Thursday 19:45, Kingsholm
Tom Savage will make his 100th competitive appearance for Gloucester as they face Worcester Warriors in the European Rugby Challenge Cup.
The Cherry and Whites are already eight points clear at the top of Pool Four and another bonus-point victory over Worcester Warriors will see them qualify for the knockout stages, providing La Rochelle leave Zebre empty handed.
Savage told the Gloucestershire Citizen, “”We thought it might be for the Sale game but it’s this week and a nice little milestone, although I’m a long way behind some of the boys. Woody (Nick Wood) is up there for the old boys now and doing a good job.”
Into the starting line-up come Rob Cook, Charlie Sharples, Billy Twelvetrees, Jonny May and James Hook in the backs.
Up front, there is a new look front row in Yann Thomas, Darren Dawidiuk and Nicky Thomas who will make his first start for the club. In the second row, Savage will partner Mariano Galarza, who lines up against his former club again, as does the final new face, Matt Kvesic.
There is a new-look Warriors back row with Val Rapava Ruskin, Ben Sowrey and Mike Daniels promoted from the bench.
Fijian lock Tevita Cavubati will play alongside Dan Sanderson, while Sam Betty will start in the back row.
Worcester head coach Carl Hogg told BBC Hereford & Worcester, “It’s a European game so it’s got its own rights and playing against Gloucester is always a special fixture.
“It does give us an opportunity to see how some of our younger players are progressing and asks questions of whether they’re capable of playing in the Premiership.”
Gloucester: 15 Rob Cook, 14 Charlie Sharples, 13 Henry Purdy, 12 Billy Twelvetrees (c), 11 Jonny May, 10 James Hook, 9 Greig Laidlaw, 8 Lewis Ludlow, 7 Matt Kvesic, 6 Jacob Rowan, 5 Mariano Galarza, 4 Tom Savage, 3 Nicky Thomas, 2 Darren Dawidiuk, 1 Yann Thomas
Replacements: 16 Tom Lindsay, 17 Dan Murphy, 18 Josh McNulty, 19 Elliott Stooke, 20 Tom Hicks, 21 Willi Heinz, 22 Billy Burns, 23 Mark Atkinson
Worcester: 15 Ben Howard, 14 Dean Hammond , 13 Alex Grove, 12 Andy Symons, 11 Tom Biggs, 10 Ryan Lamb, 9 Charlie Mulchrone (c), 8 Marco Mama, 7 Carl Kirwan, 6 Sam Betty, 5 Tevita Cavubati, 4 Dan Sanderson, 3 Mike Daniels, 2 Ben Sowrey, 1 Val Rapava Ruskin
Replacements: 16 Jaba Bregvadze, 17 Ryan Bower, 18 Gareth Milasinovich, 19 Darren Barry, 20 Huw Taylor, 21 Jonny Arr, 22 Tiff Eden, 23 Max Stelling
Date: Thursday, December 17
Kick-off: 19:45 GMT
Referee: Ian Davies (Wales)
Assistant Referees: Simon Rees (Wales), Martyn Lewis (Wales)
TMO: Gareth Simmonds (Wales)
MONTPELLIER V CARDIFF BLUES
Thursday 19:45, Altrad Stadium
Gethin Jenkins returns to captain Cardiff Blues in Thursday’s Challenge Cup Pool Three match in Montpellier.
The Wales prop was on the bench on Friday when the Blues won 37-27 against the French side in Cardiff.
Lloyd Williams, who led the side in Jenkins’ absence, drops to the bench as Tavis Knoyle takes over at scrum-half.
The Blues sit second in Pool 3 following last week’s 37-27 win over Montpellier at Cardiff Arms Park but must repeat that feat if they are to keep the pressure on leaders Harlequins, who host Calvisano on Saturday.
“If we can beat them away it probably comes down to a winner takes all against Harlequins in January, but we are fully aware of the task ahead of us now in France,” Blues Head Coach Danny Wilson told Sky Sports.
“To go and beat the squad that Montpellier have at their place will be a big ask. But we have made good strides in recent weeks to get a far better performance.”
Montpellier have made nine changes, five in the pack, to the side that started at the Arms Park, with South Africa hooker Bismarck Du Plessis among those to be dropped entirely.
Montpellier: 15 Anthony Floch, 14 Julien Malzieu, 13 Timoci Nagusa, 12 Robert Ebersohn, 11 Marvin O’Connor, 10 Demetri Catrakilis, 9 Nic White, 8 Akapusi Qera, 7 Antoine Battut, 6 Fulgence Ouedraogo, 5 Paul Willemse, 4 Robins Tchale Watchou, 3 Jannie du Plessis, 2 Charles Geli, 1 Mikheil Nariashvili
Replacements: 16 Mickael Ivaldi, 17 Pat Cilliers, 18 Nicolas Mas, 19 Sitaleki Timani, 20 Wiaan Liebenberg, 21 Benjamin Lucas, 22 Anthony Tuitavke, 23 Pierre Berard
Cardiff Blues: 15 Rhys Patchell, 14 Alex Cuthbert, 13 Garyn Smith, 12 Rey Lee-Lo, 11 Tom James, 10 Jarrod Evans, 9 Tavis Knoyle, 8 Manoa Vosawai, 7 Josh Navidi, 6 Macauley Cook, 5 Lou Reed, 4 Jarrad Hoeata, 3 Taufa’ao Filise, 2 Kristian Dacey, 1 Gethin Jenkins (c)
Replacements: 16 Ethan Lewis, 17 Sam Hobbs, 18 Dillon Lewis, 19 James Down, 20 Josh Turnbull, 21 Lloyd Williams, 22 Tom Isaacs, 23 Blaine Scully
Date: Thursday, December 17
Venue: Altrad Stadium
Kick-off: 20:45 local (19:45 GMT)
Referee: Ian Tempest (England)
Assistant Referees: Greg Macdonald (England), Andrew Watson (England)
TMO: Trevor Fisher (England)