Gloucester Rugby’s director of rugby, David Humphreys, has admitted that the English side’s European Rugby Challenge Cup quarter-final against Connacht Rugby in Ireland at the end of this month will be a “formidable” task.

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Humphreys captained Ulster Rugby to victory in the 1999 European Cup, slotting over a second-half drop-goal in the final as they defeated Colomiers 21-6 in front of 49,500 fans at Lansdowne Road in Dublin.

His Gloucester side will be looking to go one better than last year in the Challenge Cup, when they were beaten 25-17 in the final by Stade Français Paris at BT Murrayfield.

Speaking ahead of the Challenge Cup quarter-final at The Sportsground on March 31, the 46-year-old Irish international said: “Connacht away is not really one you’d choose! They’re formidable at home.

“Over the last couple of years, starting with the change that Pat Lam made, they’ve become very difficult to play against home or away.

“We found that when we played them at Kingsholm in the quarter-final – I think it was two or three years ago – and it went to extra-time. We know how difficult it’s going to be.

“We know that if we’ve got our best team out on the pitch and we go and play to our best, we’ll give Connacht a good game and can win it.”

For the first time, qualification for Europe’s elite club competition has been altered so that this season’s Challenge Cup winners will qualify for the Champions Cup pool stages, something Humphreys thinks will give the Challenge Cup an added focus.

“I think it’s a very important part of bringing some real credibility to the Challenge Cup,” he said. “I think if you win it, there should be an automatic route into the Champions Cup. Ironically, the one year that we did win it, three years ago, it wasn’t the case.

“We went into a play-off situation, but I do believe that going forward it’s a very important element for the teams participating in the Challenge Cup to have that incentive to really pick your best team and put a real focus on it.

“It is a competition that we said at the start of the year that we wanted to win.”