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Beard Bristling For Ospreys’ Anglo-Welsh assault on Gloucester

Wales forward Adam Beard reckons the Ospreys have got the muscle memory to overpower Gloucester in their European Challenge Cup clash on Friday night.

Last season, Beard was part of an Ospreys squad that did the double over French club Montpellier – an achievement that included an eye-catching away victory, when they went over the channel and won 21-10.

The second row insists the feeling in the build-up to that Heineken Champions Cup win 16 months ago has been replicated this week ahead of the cross-border raid for the quarter-final.

DragonBet make the Ospreys 2/1 underdogs to win at Kingsholm, with Gloucester favourites at 2/5.

All four home sides in the last eight stage – Gloucester, Clermont, Sharks and Benetton Treviso – are odds-on to make the last four.

“No one gave us a chance last year against Montpellier – we were just a group of lads who went out there and enjoyed our rugby and each other’s company, working hard for each other,” says Beard.

“That is the same vibe we have been getting going into this week. We know there are no second chances and we have to be on it on the day. 

“We will not put too much pressure on and look to enjoy the game. That is when we know we play our best rugby. 

“We are going to keep that confidence building and hopefully we will get a win on Friday night.”

Whilst the other three regions have all struggled for victories against the stronger teams across all competition this season, the Ospreys have once again proved they are the flag-carriers for the Welsh game.

They beat Sale Sharks 23-15 at home last week in the round of 16, they won away at the Emirates Lions, 38-28 in the pool stage and also overcame Benetton back in December, 43-34.

But Gloucester will be a step up as although they are near the bottom of the Gallagher Premiership, their form in Europe has been impressive and they have won seven of their last eight matches in all competitions.

It will be the 12th clash between the west country side and Welsh opposition in the Challenge Cup.

The Cherries have won seven and drawn one of those 11 games and have only been beaten once at Kingsholm by a Welsh side in the competition – the Dragons in the 2016 quarter-final.

“Gloucester have high-profile players like Zach Mercer and we need to be better than we were against Sale,” says Ospreys head coach Toby Booth.

“I know George Skivington (Gloucester head coach) well. I coached him when he was playing for England Saxons.

“He’s got a good team and when they get their tails up at home, the place starts rocking and it becomes more intimidating. We have to embrace that challenge and try to shut out the noise and carry on what we have been doing.

“There will be some people who talk about the difference between the URC and Premiership, but once you get to this stage in Europe there are no mugs in either competition.

“The feedback I have had from international coaches is European competition is the closest to Test rugby because you get less preparation time against opponents you don’t know. It provides a shop window for players and the realism about what the next level looks like.”

The last time the two teams met was 2018, when Gloucester won 43-20 at Kingsholm in the old Anglo-Welsh Cup.

The Ospreys have hooker Sam Parry back from injury, a key addition as the front rower has been one of their best players this season and many feel he should have been in the Wales squad for the recent Six Nations, where Wales struggled in the set-pieces.

James Ratti partners Beard in the second row, with Rhys Davies out with a season-ending knee injury.

Welsh centre Max Llewellyn starts for Gloucester, along with Welsh-born Italian international scrum-half, Stephen Varney.

Gloucester: 15 Santi Carreras, 14 Jonny May, 13 Max Llewellyn, 12 Seb Atkinson, 11 Jake Morris, 10 Adam Hastings, 9 Stephen Varney, 8 Zach Mercer, 7 Lewis Ludlow (c), 6 Ruan Ackermann, 5 Freddie Thomas, 4 Freddie Clarke, 3 Kirill Gotovtsev, 2 Seb Blake, 1 Jamal Ford-Robinson

Replacements: 16 Santi Socino, 17 Mayco Vivas, 18 Fraser Balmain, 19 Albert Tuisue, 20 Jack Clement, 21 Caolan Engelfield, 22 Charlie Atkinson, 23 Chris Harris

Ospreys: 15 Jack Walsh, 14 Luke Morgan, 13 Keiran Williams, 12 Owen Watkin, 11 Keelan Giles, 10 Owen Williams, 9 Reuben Morgan-Williams, 8 Morgan Morris, 7 Justin Tipuric (c), 6 Harri Deaves, 5 Adam Beard, 4 James Ratti, 3 Tom Botha, 2 Sam Parry, 1 Gareth Thomas

Replacements: 16 Lewis Lloyd, 17 Nicky Smith, 18 Rhys Henry, 19 Huw Sutton, 20 Morgan Morse, 21 Luke Davies, 22 Dan Edwards, 23 Max Nagy

Venue: Kingsholm

Kick-off: 20:00 GMT

Referee: Pierre Brousset (France)

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