Savage: We’re going into unknown against Stade
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.”
On the charge: Tom Savage takes on Bath’s Elliott Stooke for Gloucester
Talisman: Sergio Parisse