ERCrugby.com researchers have unearthed facts & stats ahead of this weekend’s match between Gloucester and Worcester…
* Worcester Warriors skipper Pat Sanderson knows a thing or two about the European Challenge Cup. He was a try scorer in NEC Harlequins’ 42-33 extra-time victory over Narbonne in the 2001 final at the Madejski Stadium and won a second title at the same venue in 2004 when the Quins pipped Montferrand 27-26.
* Scrum half Matt Powell was also a winner with Quins in 2001 and played in a second European final with Worcester last season, when the Warriors lost to Auch in the Shield at Oxford. He will be renewing his rivalry with Gloucester’s Peter Richards at the base of the scrum as the two players were at Quins together in 2000 / 2001.
* Gloucester met English opposition in their only previous European semi-final – in the 2000 / 2001 Heineken Cup tournament. Leicester Tigers were 19-15 winners at Vicarage Road on that occasion. The only survivors from that game are Terry Fanalou, James Simpson-Daniel, Olivier Azam, Jake Boer, Mark Cornwell and Andy Hazell. Chris Fortey and Andy Gomarsall are now in the Worcester squad.
* Worcester beat English opposition at the semi-final stages of the European Shield last season – overcoming Leeds Tykes over two legs – before losing to Auch 23-10 in the final.
* Worcester lock Craig Gillies played for Llanelli against English opposition in the 1999/2000 Heineken Cup semi-final. Northampton Saints won 31-28 at the Madejski. Gillies was also in the Warriors side that reached the Shield final last season.
* Worcester centre Thomas Lombard is hoping to make it third time lucky this season by winning a European title. He was a loser with Stade Francais Paris in the 2001 Heineken Cup final in Paris and then again with Worcester in last season’s Shield final at Oxford. If Worcester beat Gloucester, he could become the first player to play in a Heineken Cup, Challenge Cup and Shield final.
* Olivier Azam was a European Challenge Cup winner with Montferrand in 1999. He played in the 35-16 win over Bourgoin at Stade Gerland, in Lyon, in front of a tournament record crowd of 31,986.