European Challenge Cup Final: Gloucester v Stade Francais Preview

Top-14-Gloucester-v-La-Rochelle-Preview

Gloucester and Stade Francais lock horns in the European Rugby Championship final this Friday evening. 

We have a bit of an Anglo-French theme to this weekend’s European Finals with Saracens taking on Clermont in the Champions Cup showpiece and Gloucester locking horns with Stade Francais in Friday night’s Challenge Cup final.

The ‘Cheery and Whites’ have already seen off French opposition as they defeated a much-fancied La Rochelle in the semi-finals. They will be hard-tasked to repeat the trick this time around as this Stade Francais squad will be determined to put their finals hoodoo behind them.

Gloucester v Stade Francais | Friday 12 May | BT Murrayfield | 21:00

To Win (80 Mins)
Gloucester 27/20 | Draw 18/1 | Stade 13/20
Handicap
Gloucester | Stade 
*Handicap to be added upon release

Gloucester 
I must say, I was quite surprised to see Gloucester get one over La Rochelle. To go to France and pick up a win against a side who has led the Top 14 for the majority of the season is mighty impressive. The ‘Cherry and Whites’ also impressed in their quarter-final clash with the Cardiff Blues, where they ran out 46-26 victors at the Kingsholm.

If Gloucester are to get the win this Friday evening, they will need their forwards to front up against a vastly experience Stade pack, which contains powerhouse prop Rabah Slimani and the indomitable Sergio Parisse. They will also have to be wary of the threat posed by Stade’s bench, particularly dynamo hooker Craig Burden.

David Humphreys has opted to continue with Willie Heinz as his scrumhalf, meaning Greig Laidlaw will play off the bench. This decision will lead to Billy Burns retaining the kicking duties. The pivot was in fine fettle against La Rochelle and managed to claim his team's only try of the game as well as knock over a conversion and three penalties.



Stade Francais
The French side were also involved in a much more exciting semi-final than this weekend’s opponents. Stade actually looked dead and buried heading into the final eight minutes of their semi as they trailed Bath by seven points. What was proving to be an extremely topsy-turvy tie was to have another twist as Bath, who themselves had trailed 18-6 up until the 50-minute mark, saw their lead overturned via a length of the field Hugh Pyle try and a late Jules Plisson drop goal.

Speaking of Plisson, the Stade pivot, like his counterpart Burns, will be imperative to his side’s chances this coming Friday. His ability to deliver the goods under pressure via that prodigious boot of his could be key if the heavens should open at Murrayfield.

Like I alluded to earlier, Stade’s pack will pose an almighty threat this weekend. The man who leads that eight, Sergio Parisse, will pose an even bigger threat. The talismanic Italian skipper is brilliant with ball in hand and his no holds bar approach will certainly test the bravery of the Gloucester defence.

The Stats That Matter

Stade Francais have lost their last four European Finals:

Challenge Cup
2011: Harlequins 19 - Stade 18
2013: Leinster 34 - Stade 13


Champions Cup (formerly know as the Heineken Cup)
2001: Leicester 34 - Stade 30
2005: Toulouse 18 - Stade 12 (Extra Time)


The previous four meetings between Gloucester and Stade have all been won by the latter.

Verdict: Gloucester 27/20
There’s a bit of rain floating around Edinburgh this weekend which will suit Gloucester far more than Stade. My money is on Gloucester kicking themselves to Challenge Cup glory this Friday evening.

Written by Darry Worthington for @Hollywoodbets.net!

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