Challenge Cup: Gloucester v Newcastle Preview

Gloucester and Newcastle will square off on Friday the 20th of April in the first of this weekend's European Rugby Challenge Cup quarter-finals.

We get this weekend's European knock-out rugby action underway with an all-English affair as Johan Ackermann's Gloucester will play host to Dean Richard, Newcastle Falcons. The hosts for this weekend's clash falter at the final hurdle in last year's final as they went down to Stade Francais on home soil. Will history repeat itself and Gloucester bomb out again? Or will the Cherry and Whites edge ever close to redemption.

Gloucester v Newcastle
Friday 20 April

To Win (80 Mins)
Gloucester 11/20
Draw 20/1
Newcastle 15/10

It's quite the endorsement of Johann Ackermann's coaching credentials that Gloucester are still in the hunt for a double this late in the season.

The Cherry and Whites have traditionally dropped off by mid-February domestically. Yet, last week's 37-7 bonus point victory over the Leicester Tigers sees them head into the final two rounds of the Aviva Premiership's round-robin phase three points behind - in an ironic twist - this weekend's opponents, the Newcastle Falcons.

This game represents a massive chance for Gloucester to vanquish some lingering ghosts. The Cherry and Whites absolutely butchered their chances last year against a Stade Francais side in wet conditions.

While they have a new coach in the form of ex-Lions mentor, Johann Ackermann. last season's shock home defeat to Stade may well still be lingering at the back of some of the squad member's brains.

It has been a sensational return to form for the men from the north of England, who currently find themselves fourth on the Aviva Premiership standings.

The Falcons also find themselves with a slight psychological advantage headed into this one as they beat Gloucester 20-21 at  Friday's venue just over a month ago.

The Falcons haven't had it all their way against the men from Gloucester this season, however, with the reverse tie seeing Gloucester run out 17-29 victors at Kingston Park, last November.

In terms of their Challenge Cup run, Newcastle topped Pool 1 winning all six of their games. That's a mightily impressive record considering they won all three of their away Challenge Cup fixtures.

Verdict: Gloucester 11/20
This is likely to be more a war of attrition rather than a rugby match. My money is on the Gloucester bench seeing them over the line and, in the process, booking back-to-back final appearances.

Written by Darry Worthington for

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