Gloucester hoping for third time lucky
March 18, 2011
Gloucester wing Charlie Sharples has been in fine form © Getty Images
Gloucester and Newcastle invade Franklin's Gardens this weekend to fight for the season's first piece of silverware, the Anglo-Welsh Cup.
A win for the Falcons would be a notable fillip in what has been a difficult season to date and having seen off Harlequins in thrilling fashion in the last four, they will fancy taking a few chunks out of a Gloucester side with an unwanted reputation for falling at the final hurdle.
The Cherry and Whites have made the last three Anglo-Welsh finals, losing a thriller to Northampton at Sixways last season and shipping 50 points against Cardiff Blues at Twickenham in 2009. This time, however, they are arguably the form side in England and showed with their semi-final rout of the Dragons that they boast plenty of firepower, even without their international contingent.
Gloucester - Player to Watch: Charlie Sharples scored four times against the Dragons last weekend and is the top try-scorer in this season's tournament, the Falcons will have to keep the winger quiet this weekend.
Gloucester - Team News: Tim Molenaar replaces Henry Trinder in the centre while Akapusi Qera is recalled to the back-row in place of Peter Buxton, who fractured his forearm last time out.
Newcastle - Player to Watch: Since arriving from Auckland, lock Andrew van der Heijden has provided steel to the Falcons' pack. The Kiwi will have a huge battle on his hands this weekend and will be vital to securing a platform for his side.
Newcastle - Team News: Luke Fielden returns on the wing in place of Danny Williams while Tane Tu'ipulotu's return in midfield results in a shift out wide for Luke Eves. In the pack, Kieran Brookes returns to the front-row in place of Euan Murray, who is on international duty with Scotland.
Key Battle: If Gloucester are able to provide their backline with plenty of clean possession, the Falcons will be in trouble. Up front is where the underdogs must take control if they are to dictate play on their terms.
Trivia: Newcastle last won the competition in 2004, when it was the Powergen Cup, beating Sale one year on from Gloucester's triumph over Northampton.
Stats: His haul last weekend moved Sharples four tries clear as the tournament's top scorer, with seven.
"People don't go into finals with form and reputations. Anyone can win on the day. Look at Birmingham and Arsenal. You can never get arrogant or overly confident, you have to be realistic and honest." - Gloucester boss Bryan Redpath is keeping his feet on the ground
"We've knocked out the top seeds away from home last weekend, we're in the final now and we are growing as a group. We have put in a lot of hard work over the whole season, and I just hope that we can get something out of it." - Newcastle coach Alan Tait
Prediction: Form may not matter to Redpath, but it is likely to have a bearing this weekend with Gloucester sweeping to victory.
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