John Afoa wants to right the wrongs of Gloucester Rugby’s four consecutive Aviva Premiership Rugby losses in their European Challenge Cup quarter-final with Dragons on Saturday.
Reigning European Challenge Cup champions Gloucester Rugby were denied cruelly by Pierre Bernard’s last-gasp drop-goal in last year’s Champions Cup play-off, and their top-six hopes have been dented by a poor run of form since toppling high-flyers Wasps at Kingsholm in round 15.
But a win against tenth-placed Pro12 team Dragons on Saturday will see them one step closer to retaining the trophy they won last year without losing a game and a return to European rugby’s top table.
Former All Black Afoa insists the shift in opposition has been a breath of fresh air to the Cherry and Whites, who showed signs of life in scoring 24 unanswered first-half points during their thrilling 35-30 loss to Leicester Tigers at Welford Road last time out.
“We’ve been disappointed with the losses, so this week has been a change of focus, a team we haven’t played this year,” the ex-Ulster prop said.
“There has been talk of reactions, but really we’re just asking the players to play well, if we all play well then it is going to give us our best chance. There has just been one or two too many mistakes throughout the whole team really.
“In the Worcester game we were just really bad for the whole game, against Irish there were some things going well, but there was just a lot of errors.
“The Bath game and last week (against Tigers), the results just didn’t go our way. We were better in some areas, but and then last week we just struggled to finish off the game.
“We’re just making sure we give ourselves the best chance for everyone in the squad to perform on the day.”
As for their opposition, Afoa is probably more acquainted than most with the Men of Gwent from his time in the Pro12 with Ulster and he is urging his teammates to arrive fully focused when their rivals from across the Severn Bridge roll in on Saturday.
He said: “It is a one-off game, a quarter-final and they are going to be tough enough. It is not a long way to drive for them and I’m sure they’ll be well up for the game.
“I’m sure they’ll be hoping for a dry pitch and so are we – hopefully it’ll be a game with a lot of running and a lot of rugby.
“Some people would say we are favourites, but it just depends who turns up on the day, we have shown over the last few weeks that if you don’t turn up 100%, you lose.
“If you win it that’s great, but it’s hard to look too far ahead. The Dragons have been in all of their games.
“If we don’t finish the game, and they’re in there in the last ten minutes then we could get knocked out.”
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