Richards delighted for Harris ahead of European final

Dean Richards says he’s ‘absolutely delighted’ for Newcastle Falcons academy product Chris Harris, who starts for Gloucester in tonight’s European Challenge Cup final against Sharks at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium (kick-off 8pm, live on TNT Sports). 

The Scotland international, 33, made his professional debut under Richards at Newcastle in 2014, and has gone on to enjoy an illustrious playing career which has seen him represent Scotland and the British & Irish Lions. 

“Chris Harris is a lad who has come from nowhere and I’m absolutely delighted for him,” said Richards. 

“He’s done exceptionally well, and he is the perfect example of someone who has worked tirelessly on his game to reach the top.

“In the backline Chris makes up for a lot of the shortfalls of others around him and he is a key figure in the Gloucester team. The Tottenham Hotspur Stadium is an incredible stage for the final, and I’m sure Chris will relish the occasion.”

Despite a disappointing league campaign which saw them finish second bottom, Gloucester head into this evening’s showpiece looking to secure their second trophy of the season, having already lifted the Premiership Rugby Cup. 

Richards, who is attending a charity event for The Matt Ratana Foundation this evening, admits the Cherry and Whites will have to meet fire with fire if they are to make it a double-winning season with victory over the South African’s. 

“Gloucester will be up against it tonight against a strong Sharks side,” added Richards, who guided Leicester Tigers to two Heineken Cups. 

“At the same time, Gloucester are equally as abrasive with great players in their side such as Zach Mercer and Jonny May.

“Jonny is scoring for fun, and it would be a great way for him to sign off with the club if he was to lift the trophy. 

“It will be a close game and I think defence will be key to everything Gloucester do on the night.”

After losing 90-0 at Northampton Saints in the league a fortnight ago, the Cherry and Whites bounced back with a comprehensive 54-14 victory over Newcastle a Kingsholm a week later. 

“The Premiership this year has been as tight as it has ever been and although they [Gloucester] have been out of it, I have every sympathy for them as they have had some bad injuries in key positions.”

Gloucester Rugby: 15 Santi Carreras, 14 Jonny May, 13 Chris Harris, 12 Seb Atkinson, 11 Ollie Thorley, 10 Adam Hastings, 9 Caolan Englefield, 1 Jamal Ford-Robinson, 2 Seb Blake, 3 Fraser, Balmain, 4 Freddie Clarke, 5. Arthur Clark, 6 Ruan Ackermann, 7. Lewis Ludlow (c), 8 Zach Mercer

Replacements: 16 Santi Socino, 17 Mayco Vivas, 18 Kirill Gotovtsev, 19 Albert Tuisue, 20 Jack Clement, 21 Stephen Varney, 22 Max Llewellyn, 23 Josh Hathaway