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Gloucester prepared for battle at the set-piece against the Sharks

Gloucester Director of Rugby George Skivington has called for his side to be ‘on it’ at the set-piece in their Challenge Cup final against the Sharks. 

The set-piece has been one of Gloucester’s best aspects this season, however they are coming up against a mighty Sharks pack containing the likes of Ox Nche, Eben Etsebeth and Emile van Heerden.

Speaking to the media ahead of the final on Friday, Skivington said: “We pride ourselves on our set-piece, and we work really hard on it; but so do they. It’s a very South African trait to have a very strong set piece and I expect that to be a very competitive area of the game.

He added: “We know we’re going to have to be on it in that area.”

The scrum in particular looks likely to be the main battle ground at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium. The likes of Ox Nche, Vintcent Koch and Bongi Mbonambi are renowned as some of the best scrummagers in the world, however Skivington insists his side are ready for the challenge in this particular area.

“We know the scrum is going to be a big area. We’ve been very good at scrum time all season, but we know we’re up against the best this weekend in that area. It’s not really a time to change anything or or try and do anything particularly different but I think we’ll have to be heightened in that area with with the pressure that’s coming.”

George Skivington on Gloucester front-row options

George Skivington-Credit: IMAGO

Gloucester have some good depth in the front-row themselves though, with tightheads Kirill Gotovsev and Ciaran Knight impressing recently. They also have Scottish international Fraser Balmain in the squad too, but Skivington said it would be hard to look past the duo from last weekend.

“Our scrum has been very good all year. There’s some guys like Ciaran Knight who have really come through this year and Kirill has been very good for us. Fraser’s just been out of favour, if you like, with those two playing as well as they have.

Whilst they are blessed with options at tighthead, loosehead is a more difficult situation. Skivington will still likely be without star prop Val Rapava-Ruskin for the clash on Friday night, which means Jamal Ford-Robinson and Mayco Vivas should retain their spots in the scrum.

Whilst the Gloucester DoR was quick to praise his side’s scrum this season, this area didn’t get as much change as they would have liked against Newcastle Falcons.

“To be fair to Newcastle; their set-piece is probably the strongest part of their game. The scrum is particular was the area that we analysed the most going into that game, so we expected it to be a good scrummaging contest. Were we at our best? No.

He added: “We’ve had a good review of the scrum this morning as you’d expect and I don’t think we were as good as we have been. We know we’ve got to be at our absolute best this weekend in that area.”