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Saturday 3 December 2016

Return of Henshaw may not be enough for Connacht

Robbie Henshaw
Robbie Henshaw

Connacht will have to be right on their game against the number one ranked club in the Challenge Cup quarter-final at Kingsholm tonight (KO 7.45, Sky Sports 2).

This will be aided by the return of Robbie Henshaw (above), interestingly placed at 12, full-back Mils Muliaina in what could be his European swansong, lock Quinn Roux and flanker Andrew Browne.

Coach Pat Lam has never lacked in positivity about what his men can do on their day.

"Playing a quarter-final in any competition is massive and to be involved in knock out rugby at this stage of the season is what everyone wants," said Lam.

"There's no doubt that going into the cauldron that is Kingsholm is a challenge for any team.

"Top seeds Gloucester are a side with quality internationals and a lot of experience.

"But we have worked hard to get here and with a home semi-final up for grabs, we're looking forward to facing that challenge head on as a team."

Connacht have shown signs of being slightly shop worn in recent weeks, all triggered by that controversial defeat to Cardiff.

They will have to revert to the best of their early season form, something akin to their skinning of Munster at The Sportsground on New Year's Day.

It has been mostly uphill since then, Munster the latest to illustrate that fact at Thomond Park last week.

The Cherry and Whites have made five changes, former Leinster centre Brendan Macken losing out to Bill Meakes.

The return of Scotland captain Greig Laidlaw and retention of James Hook gives them real experience at half-back.

Gloucester: S McColl; C Sharples, B Meakes, B Twelvetrees (capt), J May; J Hook, G Laidlaw; D Murphy, R Hibbard, J Afoa, T Savage, T Palmer, S Kalamafoni, M Kvesic, G Evans.

Connacht: M Muliaina; T O'Halloran, D Poolman, R Henshaw, M Healy; J Carty, K Marmion; D Buckley, T McCartney, R Ah You, Q Roux, A Muldowney, A Browne, E Masterson, J Muldoon (capt).

Verdict: Gloucester.

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