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Gloucester vs Sharks: Eben Etzebeth captains in Challenge Cup final : Planet Rugby

Gloucester come into Friday’s Challenge Cup clash looking to win their third title when they take on the Sharks, who are appearing in their first final.

The Cherries and Whites lifted the trophy in 2006 and 2015, but fell short in 2017 and 2018, where they finished as runners-up behind Stade Francais and Cardiff respectively.

The Sharks, meanwhile, are in just their second season of ‘European’ competition, but are participating in the Challenge Cup for the first time, reaching the main event with a dramatic victory over Clermont Auvergne in the quarter-finals.

Adam Hastings and Santiago Carreras return

Good news for the cherry and white fans, with the incorporation of Santi Carreras after his recovery from an appendix operation.

Up front, Jamal Ford-Robinson, Seb Blake and Fraser Balmain start on the front row, with Freddie Clarke and Arthur Clark in the boiler room.

Lewis Ludlow captains the defense team, where he is accompanied by Ruan Ackermann and player of the season Zach Mercer.

Caolan Englefield was man of the match in Gloucester’s last game and starts at scrum-half, with Adam Hastings playing his last game for the club outside of him.

Seb Atkinson and Chris Harris line up in midfield, with Carreras flanked in the back three by Ollie Thorley and Jonny May, who is set to make his 193rd and final appearance for the Cherry and Whites.

Santi Socino, who will also depart in the summer, is ready to give Gloucester one last hurrah from the bench. Mayco Vivas, Ciaran Knight, Albert Tuisue and Jack Clement are also in reserve for forwards.

Stephen Varney, Max Llewellyn and Josh Hathaway are ready to fill the back positions.

‘A special player’: Eben Etzebeth insists another ‘incredible’ Siya should make headlines

Meanwhile, Eben Etzebeth will lead a strong Sharks team appointed to take on Gloucester in Friday night’s final at London’s Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.

On this big occasion, coach John Plumtree stuck with the team that defeated Clermont in the semi-final, with injuries to Jaden Hendrikse and Lukhanyo Am forcing the Springbok duo out of the game.

In the only changes to the starting XV, Gerbrandt Grobler replaces Emile van Heerden at lock and Francois Venter moves to the inside central position with Ethan Hooker replacing Am.

Dylan Richardson and Eduan Keyter impressed in the last game against Cardiff and were rewarded with a place in matchday 23.

The teams

Gloucester: 15 Santi Carreras, 14 Jonny May, 13 Chris Harris, 12 Seb Atkinson, 11 Ollie Thorley, 10 Adam Hastings, 9 Caolan Englefield, 8 Zach Mercer, 7 Lewis Ludlow (c), 6 Ruan Ackermann, 5 Arthur Clark, 4 Freddie Clarke , 3 Fraser Balmain, 2 Seb Blake, 1 Jamal Ford-Robinson
Replacements: 16 Santi Socino, 17 Mayco Vivas, 18 Kirill Gotovtsev, 19 Albert Tuisue, 20 Jack Clement, 21 Stephen Varney, 22 Max Llewellyn, 23 Josh Hathaway

Sharks: 15 Aphelele Fassi, 14 Werner Kok, 13 Ethan Hooker, 12 Francois Venter, 11 Makazole Mapimpi, 10 Siya Masuku, 9 Grant Williams, 8 Phepsi Buthelezi, 7 Vincent Tshituka, 6 James Venter, 5 Gerbrandt Grobler, 4 Eben Etzebeth (c) , 3 Vincent Koch, 2 Bongi Mbonambi, 1 Nche Ox
Replacements: 16 Fez Mbatha, 17 Ntuthuko Mchunu, 18 Hanro Jacobs, 19 Lappies Labuschagne, 20 Dylan Richardson, 21 Cameron Wright, 22 Curwin Bosch, 23 Eduan Keyter

Date: Friday May 24
Event: Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, London
Kick off: 20:00 local time (19:00 GMT time)
Referee: Mathieu Raynal (France)
Assistant referees: Andrew Brace (Ireland), Pierre Brousset (France)
TMO: Eric Gauzins (France)

READ MORE: ‘A special player’: Eben Etzebeth insists another ‘incredible’ Siya should make headlines

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