European Challenge Cup: Gloucester will go full tilt in final, says Hibbard
Combative Wales hooker targeting success in his first European final
Richard Hibbard admits Gloucester will go full tilt in the European Challenge Cup final against Edinburgh on Friday.
The former Ospreys hooker was one of several big names to move to Kingsholm last summer, with compatriot James Hook, former All Blacks prop John Afoa, and Scotland scrum-half Greig Laidlaw also heading to the West Country.
I’m personally very excited about playing in it; it’s my first European final, and I genuinely can’t wait.
Despite being tipped to make waves in the Aviva Premiership under the direction of Ulsterman David Humphreys and Australian coach Laurie Fisher, Gloucester have found life in the league tough going, while Europe’s second-tier competition has been a welcome distraction.
The 31-year-old Wales international has played a key role in the Cherry and Whites unbeaten march to The Stoop – also the venue for their 2006 European glory – and admits he can’t wait for his first taste of European final action.
“It’s an exciting time, all the hard work, after all the ups and downs, it all comes down to this game and it’s down to us to play well first of all and, hopefully, get the result,” Hibbard told the club’s website.
“We just want to finish the job now. I don’t think that anyone goes into a final just being happy to be there.
“We’re going to go full tilt. I’m personally very excited about playing in it; it’s my first European final and I genuinely can’t wait.
“All the building blocks that we’ve been putting in place so far this season, getting the result and lifting the trophy would be the cement between those blocks – another step along the path we’re taking as a group.
“It’ll galvanise us and really push us on for next season.”
After playing all of his professional rugby in Wales since joining the Ospreys in 2004, Neath-born Hibbard felt ready for a change after 10 years and four Celtic League titles with the Ospreys, driven in part by his desire test himself in a new environment.
We haven’t had a great time this year, some areas have been disappointing, but our cup run has made up for it, and it’s a massive game.
European success has eluded the combative hooker, who often shows no respect for his body when on the field, but he has the chance on Friday, along with outside-half Hook, to swell the ranks of Welshmen to win on the big stage.
So far, 23 Welshmen have tasted success in the Challenge Cup – 17 of them a part of the Cardiff Blues squad that defeated Toulon 28-21 in the 2010 final in Marseille – and Hibbard accepts that playing in a European final is partly why he made the move to Kingsholm.
“This is definitely the kind of game I joined Gloucester to play in,” he added.
“We haven’t had a great time this year, some areas have been disappointing, but our cup run has made up for it, and it’s a massive game.
“All the hard work we do that people don’t see, learning to play with each other, having new coaches, it shows it is all working.
“To win a trophy in the first year as a new team and entity would be well deserved.”
Hibbard also paid tribute to the Gloucester faithful, who have been snapping up tickets for the short trip down to south-west London, where they are expected to outnumber the Scots.
“That’s been incredible,” he said.
“I saw the photos of the supporters queuing up for their tickets outside the stadium and it’s amazing, but that support has been behind us all year, and it’s helped push us on and get us here.
“It’ll be important to us as well on Friday.”