It is only seven weeks since Connacht lost to David Humphreys’ side 14-7 in the Challenge Cup quarter-finals.
Since then Gloucester have gone on to win the tournament, providing them with the only route they could navigate to play Champions Cup rugby next season.
Gloucester seemed set to meet their Challenge Cup final opponents, Edinburgh in tomorrow’s fixture, but two vital bonus points from Ospreys and Ulster, and a comprehensive victory over Zebre, ensured Pat Lam’s side advanced as seventh place finishers in the Pro 12. Win, and the prize is a favourable home draw against the seventh-placed Top 14 side, most likely Racing Metro or Bordeaux-Begles.
Home advantage and history point to another Gloucester win but Lam believes there is no reason why his side, despite the injuries, cannot pull off a shock.
“It’s knock out rugby. We may be battered and bruised, but we’re massively excited by it,” he says.
“Seventh is a record finish for Connacht rugby in the Pro12, but we still have this chance to secure that final place.Win this weekend and we’ll be at home the following Sunday. Connacht has never been in this position before. ” Two first-half tries proved the difference when the sides last met and Lam hopes his men learned some valuable lessons in the interim. “We have spoken about leaking soft tries and we did the same against them last time.
“There is no doubt we have to mentally in tune right through every minute of this game because they set their stall out knowing they had to win as their only way into the Champions Cup rugby.
“So we knows what’s coming. Nothing changes as far as our systems and structures, it’s about being able to execute them better than we ever have.”
T O’Halloran, F Carr, R Henshaw, B Aki, M Healy, J Carty, J Cooney, D Buckley, T McCartney, R Ah You, G Naoupu, A Muldowney, J Muldoon (cpt), E Masterson, E McKeon. Replacements, D Heffernan, JP Cooney, F Bealham, A Browne, J Connolly, I Porter, M Nikora, S O’Leary.
C Sharples, J May, B Meakes, B Twelvetrees (cpt), H Purdy, J Hook, G Laidlaw, N Wood, R Hibbard, J Afoa, T Savage, T Palmer, J Rowan, D Thomas, R Moriarty. Replacements, D Dawidiuk, Y Thomas, S Knight, E Stooke, L Ludlow, D Robson, B Burns, R Cook.