All you need to know ahead of the Challenge Cup final between Cardiff Blues and Gloucester in Bilbao

Cardiff Blues v Gloucester Challenge Cup final preview

Gloucester are aiming to equal Harlequins’ record of winning three European Challenge Cup finals in Bilbao on Friday night as they take on Cardiff Blues in the final.

The Blues also have pedigree in this tournament having beaten Toulon 28-21 in the 2010 final to become the first, and so far only, Welsh side to win a European title. The Cherry and Whites previous triumphs came in 2006 and 2015.

Cardiff Blues v Gloucester Challenge Cup final preview

In the pink: Ed Slater in action against Connacht in the knockout stages (Getty Images)

Taufa’ao Filise starts this final, just as he did in 2010, but Gethin Jenkins has been ruled out by injury, as has Alex Cuthbert. Ellis Jenkins, a co-captain for Wales’ summer tour, will lead the Blues with Ed Slater named as skipper for Gloucester.

Related: Wales squad for the 2018 summer tour

Here’s what else you need to know in the lead-up to the game…

How did the two teams reach this stage?

Cardiff Blues topped their pool, despite losing to Sale, and then beat Edinburgh 20-6 at Murrayfield in the quarter-finals and overcame Pau 16-10 in the last four.

Gloucester lost twice in their group games – to Pau home and away – before a 33-28 win over Connacht put them through to the semi-finals, where they saw off Newcastle 33-12.

Cardiff Blues v Gloucester Challenge Cup final preview

Rematch: Willis Halaholo and the Blues lost to Gloucester in last year’s quarter-finals (Getty Images)

What have the coaches said?

Cardiff Blues head coach Danny Wilson: “It promises to be an electric occasion between two sides that like to run the ball and play attacking rugby.

“Gloucester will be highly motivated for a European final, will be well prepared and emotionally in a place that they will be bouncing to try to turn us over but that will be no different to ourselves.”

Gloucester head coach Johan Ackermann: “Cardiff are deservedly in the final. They’re a team with a lot of threats – a very good loose trio and a very good back-line.

“They’re a side who will fight for everything and I think it will be a great final between two sides that play a decent brand of rugby.”

Any interesting statistics?

  • These two sides have met once before in the Challenge Cup, Gloucester beating Cardiff Blues 46-26 in last year’s quarter-finals.
  • Gloucester have won 98% of their own scrums this season, losing just one of 58 against the head, which is a better record than any other team in the Challenge Cup.
Cardiff Blues v Gloucester Challenge Cup final preview

In form: Jake Polledri has been a key performer for Gloucester (Getty Images)

  • Gloucester flanker Jake Polledri has beaten more defenders than any other forward in the competition (28).
  • The teams appear to play in contrasting styles, with Cardiff Blues averaging 16.9 points and 1.9 tries a game in the Challenge Cup while Gloucester average 39.9 points and 5.6 tries.
  • The Blues do fare better in the turnover stats, winning an average of 8.6 a game to Gloucester’s 7.1, and average fewer missed tackles too.

When does it kick off and is it on TV?

Bilbao’s San Mamés Stadium is hosting this year’s Challenge Cup final, which will kick off at 8pm UK time (9pm in Spain). It is being televised live on both BT Sport and Sky Sports.

It’s an all-French refereeing group with Jerome Garces holding the whistle and Romain Poite and Pascal Gauzere on the touchlines.

Related: Downtime with Jerome Garces

Cardiff Blues v Gloucester Challenge Cup final preview

Young gun: Jarrod Evans has impressed at ten for Cardiff Blues (Getty Images)

What are the line-ups?

CARDIFF BLUES: Gareth Anscombe; Owen Lane, Rey Lee-Lo, Willis Halaholo, Blaine Scully; Jarrod Evans, Tomos Williams; Rhys Gill, Kristian Dacey, Taufa’ao Filise, Seb Davies, Josh Turnbull, Josh Navidi, Ellis Jenkins, Nick Williams.

Replacements: Kirby Myhill, Brad Thyer, Scott Andrews, Damian Welch, Olly Robinson, Lloyd Williams, Garyn Smith, Matthew Morgan.

GLOUCESTER: Jason Woodward; Tom Marshall, Billy Twelvetrees, Mark Atkinson, Henry Trinder; Billy Burns, Callum Braley; Josh Hohneck, James Hanson, John Afoa, Ed Slater (captain), Mariano Galarza, Jake Polledri, Lewis Ludlow, Ruan Ackermann.

Replacements: Motu Matu’u, Val Rapava Ruskin, Fraser Balmain, Freddie Clarke, Ben Morgan, Ben Vellacott, Andy Symons, Tom Hudson.

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