Irish are awaiting again in Euro test
GLOUCESTER will square up to Premiership rivals London Irish in Amlin Challenge Cup action this season.
The Cherry and Whites have drawn the Exiles and French Top 14 sides Bordeaux-Begles and Mont-de-Marsan in pool one of the second-tier European competition.
New rugby director Nigel Davies' side will do battle with old foes Irish, which means the two English teams will play each other four times during the season in all competitions.
Mont-de-Marsan have just won promotion back to France's top league, while Bordeaux finished eighth in the Top 14 this term, and even produced big results by beating the likes of title-winners Toulouse.
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Gloucester's abortive campaign slumped to a low note with a 52-18 defeat, where captain Jim Hamilton and Irish hooker David Paice were both sent off for fighting.
The Kingsholm club have struggled at London Irish's Reading ground in recent times, and allied to the testing French trips, this will be a tricky group that Gloucester must negotiate.
The 2006 tournament winners will be looking to the European competition to provide some momentum for Premiership action, but if they produce a string of results in the Amlin then it could also turn into a prospective opportunity to qualify for the Heineken Cup.
The winners of the competition secure an automatic Heineken Cup spot for the following campaign, and that will be one of Gloucester's chief ambitions for the new season.