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Gloucester Rugby will not be overawed by Saracens’ European record pledges George Skivington

History counts for very little on Friday night believes Gloucester boss George Skivington.

The Cherry and Whites face Saracens at Kingsholm in the quarter-final of the European Challenge Cup in their biggest game of the season to date.

Gloucester have an admirable recent record in Europe’s second-tier cup competition having won it in 2015 and been runners-up in 2017 and 2018.

But there is not getting away from the fact that the Saracens side of the last decade are true European behemoths having won the Heineken Champions Cup three times, in 2016, 2017 and 2019, been runners up in 2014 and reached the semi-finals a further three times.

Saracens’ record tells you they have repeatedly been amongst the best four clubs in Europe for a decade and are going well again this season, sitting second in the Gallagher Premiership.

READ MORE: Gloucester Rugby player ratings from record win over Bath: ‘A classic performance’

Only a huge 70-point deduction after being found guilty of breaking the Premiership’s salary cap rules that led to the club being relegated has seen them demoted to the Challenge Cup this season.

But for all of the trophies sat in the reception of the StoneX Stadium, Gloucester head coach Skivington believes it is pointless to look beyond the here and now and is confident his side can compete.

He said: “Saracens are in the Challenge Cup for a different reason to the rest of us. We fully respect that, we know how well they have done but you have just got to live in the here and now and embrace it.

He continued: “They are a very good outfit, very polished and have been for a number of years. We are under no illusions that we need to be very good on Friday night.”

Despite having to move on some players after the salary cap scandal, Saracens still have a star-studded squad, with England captain Owen Farrell pulling the strings from fly-half and arguably the world’s best forward Maro Itoje in the pack.

There is a very good chance Saracens director of rugby Mark McCall will name an entire international starting XV for Friday’s cup clash in an illustration of their firepower.

But Skivington believes his players have the experience and mental approach necessary to deal with the big occasion.

He said: “We have got a lot of experience within the group, not necessarily as a group, but there are enough players in the squad who have experience of knockout rugby and it isn’t a massive concern to me because we are still focusing on week to week.

“We are not looking at it like a quarter-final, we are looking at how do we beat Saracens? It is just another game for us.”

Gloucester have justifiable reasons for optimism heading into the game after thrashing derby rivals Bath Rugby 64-0 last weekend and having beaten Saracens 25-24 away from home in the Premiership back in January.

“That was a good game for us but I think Sarries have moved on a bit since then,” Skivington said. “We haven’t been watching that game back saying look at how good this was. We have referenced certain parts of it but I don’t think it is massively relevant this week.

“What we did that day worked but it is a different time of year and there are different conditions. Certain things worked but the boys stuck to the plan that day really well, which was a massive thing for us.

“But we have got to look at the way Sarries are playing now.”

Skivington added: “There is a good belief in this squad now whoever we are playing. We have tripped up in the Prem a couple of times in the last month but that has not faltered our belief in what we are doing. It was quite easy to identify the reasons we didn’t get it quite right in those games.

“I think the one thing we have as a group is belief and the backing that you know your teammates have got your back.”



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