La Rochelle hosts Gloucester on Thursday night in the European Challenge Cup
The Chery and Whites name strong starting XV including Greig Laidlaw and Billy Twelvetrees
French hosts have won their last two home games comfortably
Having got their European Rugby Challenge Cup title defence off to a winning start Gloucester travels to the Western France to take on La Rochelle in Round Two on Thursday night.
The Cherry and Whites retain only four players from the side that started last week’s 23-10 victory over Italian side Zebre. Bill Meakes, Mark Atkinson, Henry Purdy and Ross Moriarty keep their places while England duo Ben Morgan and Billy Twelvetrees, who skippers the side, come into the reigning champions starting XV.
Wales pair Richard Hibbard and James Hook as well as Scotland captain Greig Laidlaw also come in to make an impressive looking line-up.
Speaking to the local media ahead of the team travelling across the Channel, Head Coach Laurie Fisher acknowledged that Gloucester knows that they will have to be at their best to prevail.
“Traditionally, French sides are a lot better at home than they are away but they had a hard-fought game at Sixways against Worcester last week. They’re performing well in the Top 14 this year, and I think it’ll be a tough old game up there.
“The way this tournament works, you’ve got to keep on winning. So, we’ve given ourselves a good opportunity. A bit like Oyonnax last year, if you can get those results in the first two games, one home and one away, then you start to set yourself up.
“We’re just looking to get the win. I don’t think there are any thoughts about bonus points. It’s just about rolling up our sleeves; it’ll be a tough place and they’ll be very committed in front of their home crowd.
“They’re a big team with some quality players, so it’s a big task for us.”
The French hosts may have been comfortably beaten 19-3 on their travels last weekend against Worcester, however, boast a strong home record, winning their last two home games in the Top 14 convincingly.
Reigning champions Gloucester have named a strong XV for their trip to France as they come up against a seasoned La Rochelle side. The French team has been strong on home turf as of late but the Cherry and Whites international quality and European know-how from the likes of Hibbard, Laidlaw and Twelvetrees should see them through comfortably in the end. Gloucester by 11.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
La Rochelle: Julien Audy
The well-travelled playmaker is deadly from the tee while with the ball in hand is precise with his passing. The 30-year-old’s experience and leadership qualities make him a fundamental part of the Stade Rochelle set-up while his creativity and unpredictability make him a nuisance for any opposition. Make sure you keep an eye on the dynamic 5ft 7in scrum-half.
Gloucester: Billy Twelvetrees
La Rochelle: Charles Bouldoire, Alex Northam, Eliott Roundil, Malietoa Hingano, Gabriel Lacroix, Fabien Fortassin, Julien Audy, Mike Corbel, Benjamin Geledan, Gagi Bazadze, Jone Qovu, Leandro Cedaro, Jason Eaton, Romain Sazy, Kévin Gourdon
Replacements: Maxime Gua, Vincent Pelo, Thomas Synaeghel, Damien Lagrange, Zeno Kieft, Albain Meron, Jules Lebail, Martin Carre
Gloucester Rugby: James Hook; Charlie Sharples, Bill Meakes, Mark Atkinson, Henry Purdy; Billy Twelvetrees (capt), Greig Laidlaw; Paddy McAllister, Richard Hibbard, John Afoa; Tom Savage, Jeremy Thrush; Ross Moriarty, Matt Kvesic, Ben Morgan
Replacements: Tom Lindsay, Yann Thomas, Paul Doran-Jones, Sione Kalamafoni, Jacob Rowan, Willi Heinz, Steve McColl, Rob Cook
Date: Thursday 19th November 2015
Venue: Stade Marcel Deflandre, La Rochelle
Referees: Marius Mitrea