Gloucester Rugby have ambitions of reaching the levels of Leinster Rugby in the Heineken Champions Cup, according to the Irish province’s flanker Will Connors.

The two sides meet in EPCR’s premier competition on Friday having both picked up wins in Round 1, Gloucester seeing off Union Bordeaux-Bègles 22-17 and Leinster thrashing Racing 92 42-10.

And although Leinster have four Heineken Champions Cup titles to their name, and Gloucester haven’t featured in the knockout stage of the tournament for 15 years, Connors believes the Gallagher Premiership side have the foundations to challenge for honours.

“They have a really proud club,” he said. “They have that old English club rugby [feeling], fans proud of their team.

“Like Racing, they have a really proud history that they’re looking to protect, and they want to have as much success as we do. They’re going to be a huge challenge to us.”

Prolific Gloucester wing Louis Rees-Zammit missed the opening round with a hip injury, but should he return in time for Friday’s game, Connors says Leinster will be ready to deal with his scintillating movement.

“He’s shown his pace and shown at the top level that he’s a huge threat,” he said. “You need to close these lads down early, but we know the threat he poses. He’s had a great season in fairness to him.”

Connors went on to admit that Leinster have added motivation in this season’s Heineken Champions Cup, given that the final will be held at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin.

“For any club in there to have a home final, for us if we get there to Dublin, we know our fans will back us 100%,” he said.

“Growing up watching Leinster the whole way through, to come nicely together, to have your home venue, to lift the [Heineken] Champions Cup, the biggest trophy available to us, that’s something we’re all striving for. There’s a lot of work from here to there to put ourselves in that position.”

Leinster head coach Leo Cullen has confirmed that both prop Tadhg Furlong and fly-half Johnny Sexton, who missed Round 1 through injury, have increased their training load and are back running.

Both are expected to increase their involvement further this week ahead of Friday’s game and a final call will be made on their availability closer to kick-off.

The Round 2 game on Friday kicks off at 20:00 (UK & Irish time) and is available to watch on RTE, BT Sport, beIN SPORTS, SuperSport and FloRugby.