Gloucester Rugby, who need to defeat La Rochelle this weekend to clinch pool 4 in this season’s European Rugby Challenge Cup, will be skippered by Greig Laidlaw in Saturday’s fixture (kick off 3pm).
The Cherry and Whites come into this weekend’s action, leading Zebre by nine points. With two rounds left to play, the Italian side could catch Gloucester with two bonus point wins, but a Gloucester win would end those hopes.
Laidlaw will lead a side that features six internationals in the starting line up, but several changes from the side that started at Sandy Park against Exeter Chiefs last Saturday.
Coming into the back line are Mark Atkinson, Billy Burns and David Halaifonua while the only two forwards retained from last weekend are Nicky Thomas and Tom Savage.
Featuring amongst the replacements is New Zealand second row, Joe Latta, who could make his first competitive appearance for the club.
La Rochelle can’t progress in the competition, but provided Gloucester with stern opposition in the first meeting between the clubs earlier this season.
So, Head Coach Laurie Fisher, talking to the local media this week, insists that nothing is being taken for granted.
“If we win this, we’ll win our pool and that’ll get us into the last eight. We’d like to be one of the top four seeds, working towards a home quarter-final.
“But we need to get this weekend out of the way first, against what will be a challenging La Rochelle side who will come to Kingsholm with not a lot to gain but nothing to lose. A French side playing with freedom, given the size of their players and their offload game, can be dangerous.
“There’s never any complacency in our group. There will be a lot of guys getting an opportunity so I would anticipate that complacency won’t play a part at all. It’s more about the excitement of playing at Kingsholm in the European Challenge Cup in front of our own supporters and trying to secure a quarter-final spot.”
Gloucester Rugby: Rob Cook; Charlie Sharples, Billy Twelvetrees, Mark Atkinson, David Halaifonua; Billy Burns, Greig Laidlaw (capt); Yann Thomas, Darren Dawidiuk, Nicky Thomas; Tom Savage, Mariano Galarza; Ross Moriarty, Jacob Rowan, Lewis Ludlow
Replacements: Tom Lindsay, Dan Murphy, Josh McNulty, Joe Latta, Elliott Stooke, Callum Braley, Steve McColl, Matt Kvesic