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Gloucester v Castres Olympique - Teams and prediction

FRIDAY PREVIEW: Gloucester head coach George Skivington has demanded a return to winning ways in his club’s Challenge Cup Round of 16 tie with Castres Olympique at Kingsholm on Friday.

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The Challenge Cup offers the Cherry and Whites a perfect chance to bounce back from their 24-33 Premiership home loss to Bristol Bears, their first since early January.

“It is always really tough to lose and when you haven’t lost for a little while, it’s even more gutting, but we’ve got to lick our wounds on this one and address why we lost,” said Skivington.

“There is not too much time to feel sorry for yourselves, but we will address the issues. There will be a few lads who will have an uncomfortable watch back of the last game.”

Gloucester have a proud record in the Challenge Cup, having lifted the trophy in 2006 and 2015, and finished runner-up in 2017 and 2018.

And they will go into Friday’s match brimful of confidence, having delivered a convincing 35-5 home win over Castres Olympique in the pool stage in January.

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Centre Max Llewellyn certainly believes Friday night’s match under the lights at Kingsholm should provide the perfect platform for a return to form.

“We have had a good few results and we have obviously done really well in Europe, so we are looking to take that form again and go this week,” he said.

“It’s something that’s been a rich history for the club in that sort of competition and everyone is really looking forward to getting into that again and hopefully we will go well.”

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Argentinian hooker Santi Socino makes a welcome return to the squad following a period on the sidelines, where he joins Val Rapava-Ruskin and Kirill Gotovtsev, who signed a contract extension with the club this week.

In the second row, Freddie Thomas is called into the squad to partner Freddie Clarke, who scored a memorable try in this fixture in January.

Captain Lewis Ludlow also makes a return to the XV, where he joins Ruan Ackermann and Zach Mercer in the back row.

It’s all changed in the halfback combination, Caolan Englefield wear the No.9 jersey and Charlie Atkinson will don the  No.10 shirt respectively.

Seb Atkinson joins Llewellyn in the midfield, with Ollie Thorley, Jonny May and Santi Carreras completing the side.

Adam McBurney, on loan from Edinburgh, made a try-scoring debut last weekend and is included amongst the replacements,

McBurney is joined on the bench by Mayco Vivas, Jamal Ford-Robinson, Cam Jordan, Albert Tuisue, Jack Clement, Stephen Varney and Chris Harris.

Ford-Robinson is poised to make his 100th appearance for the club.

For Casteres, Santiago Arata starts at scrumhalf and Pierre Popelin at 10.

Andrea Cocagi and Adren Seguret start in the midfield with Geoffrey Palis, Martin Laveau and Nathaneal Hulleu completing the back three.

Mathieu Babillot captains the teams. He is joined by Nick Champion de Crespigny and Abraham Papali’i in the back row.

Tom Staniforth and Gauthier Maravat are the locks. Aurelien Azar, Gaetan Barlot and Wayan de Benedittis start in the front row.

Prediction:

@rugby365com: Gloucester by five points

Teams:

Gloucester: 15 Santi Carreras, 14 Jonny May, 13 Max Llewellyn, 12 Seb Atkinson, 11 Ollie Thorley, 10 Charlie Atkinson, 9 Caolan Englefield, 8 Zach Mercer, 7 Lewis Ludlow, 6 Ruan Ackermann (captain), 5 Freddie Thomas, 4 Freddie Clarke, 3 Kirill Gotovtsev, 2 Santi Socino, 1 Val Rapava-Ruskin
Replacements: 16 Adam McBurney, 17 Mayco Vivas, 18 Jamal Ford-Robinson, 19 Cam Jordan, 20 Albert Tuisue, 21 Jack Clement, 22 Stephen Varney, 23 Chris Harris

Castres: 15 Geoffrey Palis, 14 Martin Laveau, 13 Adrien Seguret, 12 Andrea Cocagi, 11 Nathanael Hulleu, 10 Pierre Popelin, 9 Santiago Arata, 8 Abraham Papalii, 7 Nick Champion de Crespigny, 6 Mathieu Babillot (captain), 5 Tom Staniforth, 4 Gauthier Maravat, 3 Aurelien Azar, 2 Gaetan Barlot, 1 Wayan de Benedittis
Replacements: 16 Pierre Colonna, 17 Antoine Tichit, 18 Esteban Talalua, 19 Florent Vanverberghe, 20 Yann Peysson, 21 Jeremy Fernandez, 22 Vilimoni Botitu, 23 Josaia Raisuqe

Date: Friday, April 5
Venue: Kingsholm Stadium, England)
Kick-off: 20.00 (20.00 GMT; 21.00 French time)
Referee: Andrew Brace (Ireland)
Assistant Referees: Keane Davison (Ireland), Robbie Jenkinson (Ireland)
TMO: Olly Hodges (Ireland)

Source: @ChallengeCup

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