Sav­age: We’re go­ing into un­known against Stade

The Rugby Paper - - Feature - ■ By NEALE HAR­VEY

GLOUCES­TER stal­wart Tom Sav­age warns his side to ex­pect the un­ex­pected when they take on Stade Fran­cais in Fri­day’s Chal­lenge Cup fi­nal at Mur­ray­field.

The Cherry & Whites boast an out­stand­ing record against French op­po­si­tion in Europe, hav­ing tri­umphed in 16 of their last 18 Cham­pi­ons and Chal­lenge Cup matches against Top 14 sides since 2012-13.

How­ever, Sav­age reck­ons that counts for noth­ing against a Stade out­fit des­per­ate to atone for los­ing their four pre­vi­ous Euro­pean fi­nals.

Lock Sav­age, a mem­ber of the Glouces­ter side who lifted the 2015 Chal­lenge Cup by beat­ing Ed­in­burgh two years ago, told The

Rugby Pa­per: “We’ve had a good run in this com­pe­ti­tion against some pretty tough French op­po­si­tion.

“The Chal­lenge Cup has been a happy hunt­ing ground and it’s dif­fer­ent to the Premier­ship in that you’re go­ing into the un­known against sides you’ve not played be­fore, so it’s re­fresh­ing and as a squad we really en­joy it.

“We did well to beat La Rochelle in the semis and will look to put in an­other big per­for­mance this Fri­day, but we know Stade Fran­cais are no mugs and they showed what they were about by com­ing from be­hind to beat Bath.

“They’ve got good half­backs in Will Ge­nia and Jules Plis­son and Ser­gio Parisse’s a real tal­is­man at No.8. There’ll be mem­bers of our squad who’ve grown up watch­ing Parisse play for Italy and Stade and they’re a top team in their own right.”

Sav­age reck­ons French un­pre­dictabil­ity makes for­ward plan­ning hard, adding: “You can an­a­lyse French teams as much as you like but you never know what you’re go­ing to get on the day!

“They’re al­ways strong up front so you’ve got to be pre­pared to get stuck in at the scrum and maul, but the French style is so un­pre­dictable; one minute they’re kick­ing the ball and the next they can be run­ning it from their try-line.

“You have to be pre­pared for any­thing and they also like to push the lim­its dis­ci­pline-wise in the tight ar­eas. You can’t get caught up in that, though, you’ve got to leave the of­fi­cials to sort it out and con­cen­trate on what you’re do­ing.”

A frus­trat­ing cam­paign has not gone to plan, but Sav­age, 28, reck­ons one out­stand­ing per­for­mance now can trans­form any gloom sur­round­ing it.

He added: “Win­ning the Chal­lenge Cup two years ago was one of my ca­reer high­lights and as play­ers that’s why you play the game.

“It’s ob­vi­ously been a chal­leng­ing sea­son with re­sults be­ing so up and down, but we’ll have the ad­van­tage of great sup­port at Mur­ray­field and we’ll try to make that count by win­ning some sil­ver­ware for all our loyal sup­port­ers.

“You want to do as well as you can for the club, give some­thing back and get tan­gi­ble re­ward for all the hard work put in.”

PIC­TURE: Getty Images

On the charge: Tom Sav­age takes on Bath’s El­liott Stooke for Glouces­ter

Tal­is­man: Ser­gio Parisse

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