Challenge Cup Preview: Gloucester v Newcastle Falcons

Challenge Cup Preview: Gloucester v Newcastle Falcons

Gloucester head coach Johan Ackermann has shaken up his Premiership side with six changes ahead of tonight's Challenge Cup semi-final against Newcastle Falcons at Kingsholm.

Having missed out against Harlequins last weekend, Tom Marshall returns for the Cherry & Whites in place of Charlie Sharples in the only change to the backline from the side that defeated Quins.

An all change front row sees Paddy McAllister, Motu Matu’u and Fraser Balmain come into the side, Ed Slater continues as captain and will be partnered by Mariano Galarza in the second-row. The final change sees Ruan Ackermann return to the back-row. 

“There’s obviously a lot at stake and both sides showed some good qualities last weekend,” Johan Ackermann revealed. “We’ve played each other three times already so not an unknown factor, both teams know each other quite well so it makes the contest quite intriguing.

“Newcastle are the one side to come and beat us at Kingsholm in the league which shows their quality, but we went there and beat them. So, it just shows how well balanced the two teams are.

Newcastle Falcons have also made six changes for the West Country clash with Joel Hodgson starting at fly-half having steered his side to a league victory over Gloucester.

Scotland international Chris Harris has been pushed to the wing with two-time Champions Cup winner Maxime Mermoz starting at outside centre.

Scrum-half Micky Young captains the Tynesiders having also earned a man of the match award for his individual efforts during Falcons' Premiership victory at Kingsholm less than two months ago.

Director of rugby Dean Richards said: “Gloucester have got stacks of pace and I think they’re an outstanding team.

“It will be an interesting duel, their form is probably a bit better than ours in recent weeks but I thought the way we came back against Sale means it will go right down to the wire. If that transpires then I feel we have more chance of winning it than they have, just down to our ability to finish off the tight games.”

The teams:

Gloucester: 15 Jason Woodward, 14 Tom Marshall, 13 Billy Twelvetrees, 12 Mark Atkinson, 11 Henry Trinder, 10 Billy Burns, 9 Callum Braley, 8 Ben Morgan, 7 Jake Polledri, 6 Ruan Ackermann, 5 Mariano Galarza, 4 Ed Slater (c), 3 Fraser Balmain, 2 Motu Matu’u, 1 Paddy McAllister
Replacements: 16 James Hanson, 17 Josh Hohneck, 18 John Afoa, 19 Freddie Clarke, 20 Lewis Ludlow, 21 Ben Vellacott, 22 Andy Symons, 23 Charlie Sharples

Newcastle: 15 Simon Hammersley, 14 Chris Harris, 13 Maxime Mermoz, 12 Josh Matavesi, 11 Zach Kibirige, 10 Joel Hodgson, 9 Michael Young (c), 8 Ryan Burrows, 7 Gary Graham, 6 Evan Olmstead, 5 Sean Robinson, 4 Calum Green, 3 Scott Wilson, 2 Scott Lawson, 1 Sam Lockwood
Replacements: 16 Santiago Socino, 17 Rob Vickers, 18 Trevor Davison, 19 Will Witty, 20 Mark Wilson, 21 Sam Stuart, 22 Adam Radwan, 23 Tom Penny

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