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Sunday 23 September 2018

Humphreys keen to take pal McCall's path to glory

David Humphreys. Pic: Sportsfile
David Humphreys. Pic: Sportsfile

David Humphreys, the out-half, and Mark McCall, the club captain, were joined at the hip to celebrate Ulster's most glorious day in the 1999 Heineken Cup final victory over Colomiers.

Nineteen years later, McCall, who retired before that final, has pocketed two Champions Cups as coach of Saracens, while Humphreys is still looking to take another step towards European respectability as his Gloucester outfit take on Cardiff Blues in tonight's Challenge Cup final in Bilbao (Live BT Sport 2 and Sky Sports Action, KO 8.0).

Humphreys has looked to his close friend McCall as an example of the way to do things in the game.

"We will not emulate Saracens without consistency," he said last season.

"We can perform to a very high level but it is about doing it back-to-back-to-back like the top teams."

The link between two of Ulster's finest has lasted the test of time.

"We talk regularly about rugby and what makes successful teams," he said.

Stable

"Of course, you need good players, but also a stable environment.

"Mark is an outstanding coach and you have to aim to match what he has done. It takes time," he said.

The Gloucester faithful could be forgiven for believing Humphreys has had that time. He has been at the Cherry & Whites since 2014 and this could just be the boost Humphreys needs in a real Anglo-Welsh Cup final.

Cardiff will do all in their power to get the PRO14 out to a good start this weekend by capturing this prize for the second time.

"You can't get all romantic about it and be all things to all men," said their coach Danny Wilson. "We won't be a million miles away from what is our DNA and Gloucester will be the same."

It looks set for a high-scoring shootout in which Humphreys (below) might just be the one to see his men lift this trophy for the second time since his first season in charge.

Cardiff Blues: G Anscombe; O Lane, R Lee-Lo, W Halaholo, B Scully; J Evans, T Williams; R Gill, K Dacey, T Filise, S Davies, J Turnbull, J Navidi, E Jenkins, N Williams.

Replacements: K Myhill, B Thyer, S Andrews, D Welch, O Robinson; L Williams, G Smith, M Morgan.

Gloucester: J Woodward; T Marshall, B Twelvetrees, M Atkinson, H Trinder; B Burns, C Braley; J Hohneck, J Hanson, J Afoa, E Slater, M Galarza, J Polledri, L Ludlow, R Ackermann.

Replacements: M Matu'u, V Ruskin, F Balmain, F Clarke, B Morgan; B Vellacott, A Symons,T Hudson.

Verdict: Gloucester.

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