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Gloucester make one change as they prepare to host 'seriously big man' Will Skelton and La Rochelle

By Liam Heagney

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Heineken Champions Cup hopefuls Gloucester have welcomed Scotland midfielder Chris Harris back into their XV for Friday night’s round of 16 encounter versus a La Rochelle side bolstered by Will Skelton, the former Saracens second row. 

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Described by Scotland boss Gregor Townsend as one of the world’s best defensive No13s, Harris takes his place in a potent backline that will feature England’s Jonny May and Wales’ Louis Rees-Zammit on the respective wings while Willi Heinz and George Barton continue their half-back partnership.

The forwards are unchanged following last week’s win over Gallagher Premiership leaders Exeter, with Lewis Ludlow resuming the captaincy at openside alongside Jordy Reid and Ruan Ackermann in the back row. Ed Slater and Matias Alemanno start at lock with Val Rapava-Ruskin, Henry Walker and Fraser Balmain packing down in the front row.

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Gloucester boss George Skivington said: “They have got some real strengths and a big pack. They have got characters like Will Skelton who is a seriously big man. We have seen when he played for Saracens that he can destroy mauls on his own. They have got a very big, efficient pack and an extremely exciting backline. 

“The process that they have, they are very efficient in. There is a good reason they are where they are in the French league, second place, and they have clearly got very good systems and are effective with it. They use their strengths really well is the best way. They worked out who can do what and it is a pretty star-studded team. They are very well-coached from the games that I’ve watched.”

Skelton was looking forward to his return to England, telling RugbyPass in an exclusive interview last weekend: “It’s going to be a tough game. We’re just lucky they won’t have fans there because their fans are relentless.”

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GLOUCESTER: 15. Santiago Carreras; 14. Louis Rees-Zammit, 13. Chris Harris, 12. Mark Atkinson, 11. Jonny May; 10. George Barton, 9. Willi Heinz; 1. Val Rapava Ruskin, 2. Henry Walker, 3. Fraser Balmain, 4. Ed Slater, 5. Matías Alemanno, 6. Jordy Reid, 7. Lewis Ludlow (capt), 8. Ruan Ackermann. Reps: 16. Santi Socino, 17. Alex Seville, 18. Jamal Ford-Robinson, 19. Alex Craig, 20. Freddie Clarke, 21. Jack Clement, 22. Charlie Chapman, 23. Billy Twelvetrees.

LA ROCHELLE: 15. Dillyn Leyds; 14. Arthur Retiere, 13. Raymond Rhule, 12. Levani Botia, 11. Jules Favre; 10. Ihaia West, 9. Tawera Kerr Barlow; 1. Dany Priso, 2. Facundo Bosch, 3. Arthur Joly, 4. Romain Sazy (capt), 5. Will Skelton, 6. Wiaan Liebenberg, 7. Kevin Gourdon, 8. Victor Vito. Reps: 16. Pierre Bourgarit, 17. Reda Wardi, 18. Uini Atonio, 19. Thomas Lavault, 20. Grégory Alldritt, 21. Thomas Berjon, 22. Jules Plisson, 23. Geoffrey Doumayrou.

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Gloucester make one change as they prepare to host 'seriously big man' Will Skelton and La Rochelle

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