Cardiff Blues 31 - 30 Gloucester Rugby
Fri 11 May 21:00 San Mames Stadium Att: 32,543 Ref: Jerome Garces European Challenge Cup

Preview: Cardiff Blues v Gloucester Rugby

Fri 11 May 2018 15:16 Preview: Cardiff Blues v Gloucester Rugby
Eight years after the success in Marseille - where Wales’ Capital Region secured victory over a star-studded Toulon side, including Tana Umaga, Sonny Bill Williams and Jonny Wilkinson - the Blues make a return to the final, which is played at San Mames Stadium, the home of La Liga’s Athletic Bilbao.

The soul survivor from the starting line-up in 2010 is Taufa’ao Filise, who is set to make his 255th and final appearance for the region, while Scott Andrews is again named amongst the replacements.

The clash will also signal a farewell to Cardiff Blues head coach, Danny Wilson, who is set for a coaching role with Wasps, and Matt Sherratt, who will move to Ospreys over the summer.

Plenty of focus in the build up has been on the back-row battle, and open side flanker, Ellis Jenkins, will captain his side at San Mames. He is joined by Josh Navidi and Nick Williams at the base of the pack, completing an unit which has been impressive in the second half of the campaign.

Only one changes has been made to the backline from the semi final victory over Pau, with USA captain, Blaine Scully, replacing the injured Alex Cuthbert.

Two-times former Challenge Cup winners, Gloucester, are captained by lock Ed Slater. Ruan Ackermann is favoured at number eight, with England international, Ben Morgan, on the bench, while 36-times capped All Black, John Afoa, stars in the front row.

There are plenty of firepower amongst the back three, with Jason Woodward, Tom Marshall and Henry Trinder selected.

What They Said

Nick Williams believes team cohesion has played a vital role in Cardiff Blues' recent form and insists his side won't be fazed by the occasion at San Mames Stadium.

"We need to treat this one as any other game, and that's what we've tried to drive through the heads in training this week. Not much will change in the game, just that you get a little silver thing to hold up at the end if you win," said Williams. 

"Form came into play at the right time of the season, and we're now looking forward to getting to Bilbao and hopefully get the win. 

"When you have a happy camp and happy players, that can go a long way. The boys come to work with a smiler, which might sound like a cliche, but the boys want to play for each other.

"We have a really good mix here of young guys coming up and the older boys like myself and Melon [Gethin Jenkins] and we seem to be clicking. The boys are happy."
Josh Navidi insists Cardiff Blues have learnt the lessons of last season's quarter final defeat to Gloucester and are determined to put in an 80-minute performance.

"Gloucester like to run the ball, they have a big pack and a strong driving lineout. 

"When we played them last year it was a good one for spectators to watch so it should be good on Friday.

"We scored a few tries but after 60 minutes went we started to crumble. It is an 80-minute game so we have to put a performance in from start to finish. 

"We have learnt from past mistakes in that game and hopefully we can take it into this one."