Exclusive: Jack Clement highlights Gloucester's mindset heading into Challenge Cup final

BY Philip Bendon  ·  Friday May 24, 2024

Gloucester Rugby will make history when they take to the futuristic Tottenham Hotspur Stadium. Joining French Top 14 powerhouse Toulon as the only side to play in five EPCR Challenge Cup finals, the Cherry and Whites will look to claim their first European title since 2015.


Standing in their way are a Springbok laden Hollywoodbets Sharks side who like Gloucester have put aside their mixed league form to put together an impressive Cup run.

Having already taken out the Premiership Cup earlier this season, Gloucester know what it takes to be successful when the chips are down.

Spearheading this Cup form has been Gloucester’s exceptional backrow players, who have quite evidently been the catalysts for getting their team over the line.

Of these players, former England U20 standout and Gloucester’s Young Player Of The Season Jack Clement has enjoyed the most productive season of his career to date.

Speaking to RugbyDump, Clement delved into a range of topics, from the upcoming Challenge Cup final to his personal form and passion for Gloucester Rugby.

Starting with this weekend’s fixture, Clement spoke of just how special the team’s Cup run has been and what it has meant to the team and its supporters.


“Oh, man, it was amazing! It was so good, mate, to be honest, because we knew obviously Benetton was having a really good season, so to get the win, and the manner in which we did it was brilliant and so good for the club now to be in a final.

“I mean, we know they are littered with South African internationals.

“They’ve not had the best season that they would’ve liked either (in the URC), nor have we been in the League.

“But I mean the fact that, as you say, we’ve gone unbeaten in every single cup game we’ve had this season, obviously winning the Premiership Cup and then got to a European Challenge Cup final.


“I mean, it seems to be so! It is a run of form that can’t really be explained but long may it continue into the final.

“It’s actually really hard to sort of nail down. But remember, sort of halfway through our league campaign, we went on a tough losing streak. We sort of almost alluded to our European campaign as a bit of a restart, a refresh button.

“I remember we went away to Georgia, and obviously, we won there against the Black Lion club, and then we beat Clermont and Castres at home, and then Edinburgh away, who you know are some seriously good teams.

“So we did use that as a sort of refresh button, and looked at the way we were playing, and maybe almost just used it as a chance to regenerate ourselves.

“I mean, we even played in a different colour kit in the European stuff, so I don’t know if that’s got anything to do with it either. But no, it’s been fantastic, and like I said, to go and be in in every single Cup game this season has been remarkable, really.

As an ultra-dynamic and versatile loose forward, Clement has offered head coach George Skivington the ultimate game-changing option as both a starter and bench player this season.

Competing with the likes of Zach Mercer, Ruan Ackermann and Lewis Ludlow, Clement has learnt from his teammates whilst remaining true to his unique skillset.

GLOUCESTER, ENGLAND – APRIL 05: Zach Mercer of Gloucester Rugby runs in to score his team’s first try during the EPCR Challenge Cup Round Of 16 match between Gloucester Rugby and Castres Olympique at Kingsholm Stadium on April 05, 2024 in Gloucester, England. (Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images)

Clearly relishing his consistent run of form and game time, Clement is taking every opportunity that comes his way to improve his game.

“Oh yeah, it’s been on a personal level. It’s been a really enjoyable season. This season, I’ve had a consistent run of games where I’ve been able to sort of start games and find a bit of form.

“So it’s been a chance for me to sort of have a run of games and really feel like I am part of the team week in, week out.

“It takes a toll on your body, but it is really enjoyable just playing every single Cup game and having success in that.

“Then, like you alluded to, the competition in the back row of Gloucester is pretty good.

“It seems in the season gone by it has gone against me, but you know, I’m starting to see having the calibre of competition around that back row is actually a really good thing,

“I have to be at my best to even have a sniff of playing. It’s now got to the point where we’ve sort of lost one or two bodies that we had last season, and obviously, we’ve still got real quality. But it’s given me the chance to have opportunities (to play), and I have taken them when they’ve come or at least tried to.

Given the competition in Gloucester’s backrow, Clement has said he is happy to fill in where the team needs him but does have his preference in terms of what he likes to do around the pitch.

“It’s interesting because speaking to coaches and Skivs (George Skivington), my greatest asset can also be my greatest weakness, and that’s my versatility across the back row.

“My ball carrying is one of my biggest strengths that I like to implement in games, and I like to get stuck into the breakdown to try and get jackals and turnovers for the team. Equally defensively, I like getting stuck.

“So there is not necessarily, you know, one thing that you can look at me and say, ‘Oh, that’s what I am known for playing Rugby for that one specific area of the game’ because I think that I can do various numbers of things.

“But that actually can then become a thing where I’m a good utility player and potentially not getting a nailed down spot in that 6, 7, or 8 shirts, so that potentially makes me a good option on the bench in the current backrow at Gloucester so it’s almost a double-edged sword.

“I do love playing number 8 purely because of the opportunity to attack off the base of the scrum and the link-up play you can have with the backs, which I think is a good skill set of mine and that I really enjoy doing.

“Whether it’s carrying off the base of the scrum in an exit to get us a breakdown to then clear from or whether that’s an attacking position where I carry into their backs and try and get real good gain line or score tries, it all really excites me.

“Equally, I am happy to play 6 or 7 depending on the balance of the back row, and that’s something that Skivs talks about a lot is the balance of the back row and how he sees it for different opposition.

“You look at some like Caelen Doris, who is obviously playing for a really good Irish team at the moment.

“With his versatility, skill set, and physique, I see some correlation with the way I play and the way that I’m built. So, someone like him is someone that I can try to model my game on.

“The way they (Leinster and Ireland) attack and defend is such a good system, and he fits in so well with his skill set, ball-playing ability, carrying, and jackaling.

“Equally like you said, Early (Ben Earl) and Ardie Savea players who are a bit more elusive, but again cover a lot of the areas in the breakdown attack and defence.”

KOBE, JAPAN – DECEMBER 09: Kobelco Kobe Steelers’ Ardie Savea (R) scores a try during the NTT Japan Rugby League One match between Kobelco Kobe Steelers and Honda Heat at Noevir Stadium Kobe on December 09, 2023 in Kobe, Hyogo, Japan. (Photo by Paul Miller/Getty Images)

Clearly capturing the attention of the national set up and more specifically head coach Steve Borthwick, Clement’s form was rewarded with a call up to the England ‘A’ side that tackled Portugal earlier this year.

This time the national set-up only served to throw further fuel on the already fire burning within Clement to prove his ability at the highest level.

“It was great to be a part of that, and actually, the most enjoyable part of that whole week was getting to reunite with a lot of people that I’d grown up playing Rugby with at age group stuff for England.

“So, there was a really good young core group of players who were part of the squad in that sort of 19 to 23 age bracket.

“It was great to be playing with the likes of, you know, Sam Riley, Alfie Barbeary, Tom Pearson and all those sorts of boys I grew up playing with.

“It was brilliant, but it was a shame that I didn’t get to play; I knew that going into it actually because Skiv (George Skivington), being the coach for the week, actually knew the team the week before.

“Steve (Borthwick) essentially picked the squad more or less but even still it was great to be a part of and it makes you hungry for future opportunities at that level.

“It was a step up in level in terms of the environment which you’re within, and it intensifies everything, so it was great.”

In order to continue his upward trajectory, Clement understands that he will need to kick on and put the coaching staff in a position where they simply cannot leave him out. Thus, his re-signing with the club for another two seasons has sent a clear message that he is ready to knuckle down and compete for his place in the squad.

In addition to the rugby reasons for remaining with his boyhood club, Clement’s association with the club runs deeper, and he remains true to this every time he pulls on the shirt.

“I am signed for two more seasons at Gloucester, which is amazing, obviously, having come through the Academy at the club and progressing my Rugby here.

“Having my family in Cheltenham and also the fan base that the club has, I would argue, is second to none, especially in this country. So, in the end, it was pretty surreal to be staying, and hopefully, we will have a few more successful years ahead.”

This passion for the club will be something both he and the squad will tap into when they tackle the Sharks on Friday evening. Whilst their league form was not up to the standards they would have hoped, Gloucester will be hyper aware of just how important a place in next season’s Investec Champions Cup will be not only for them as a squad but to the fans as well.

“Some say there is nothing to play for because of where we are in the league, but we are still a passionate club that wants to do well for our fans.

“You know there’s a big opportunity ahead at Tottenham (in the Challenge Cup final), so who is going to put their hand up for selection to that Cup final.

“You know it’s a good squad for next season and there’s some new faces coming in, but the current crop is still willing to fight, you know, and do the shirt proud.

“I think there’s a lot still to play for internally, even though it may not seem like that from the outside.

“It’s massive because, you know, like I just said, to play against the likes of La Rochelle, who we played twice last year, as well as Bordeaux home and away last season, were amazing experiences.

“Firstly, to win a final would be amazing, and obviously, the by-product of a place in the Champions Cup for next season would be the cherry on top. So, there’s a lot of incentive to go out and win in a couple of weeks.”

GLOUCESTER, ENGLAND – DECEMBER 15: Jack Clement of Gloucester Rugby looks on during the EPCR Challenge Cup match between Gloucester Rugby and ASM Clermont Auvergne at Kingsholm Stadium on December 15, 2023 in Gloucester, England. (Photo by Ryan Pierse/Getty Images)

Clearly the incentive for the team to put in their biggest performance of the season to date is there for all to see on Saturday. For Clement the question of what is ‘why’ for delivering top level performances is more personal.

“For me, I think beneath all of it, it’s actually my family, just because you know I look back at all the sacrifices they’ve made when I was growing up.

“I used to play county cricket and I actually only ever wanted to be a professional cricket player growing up.

“My Dad used to drive to Cornwall which is a four-hour drive from where we lived all off his own back every weekend.

“Every weekend, I’d be training Saturday morning for Rugby, then playing for my school. Then I would play football on Sunday morning and train for cricket on a Sunday evening for the county in the winter, so it was hectic.

“But my dad was here, there, and everywhere, as was my mum and my grandma, who are massive supporters of my career and even before they knew it would be a career when I was growing up.

“So you know, to almost sort of pay them back.

“I’m probably the most annoying bloke at the club asking for tickets every weekend for a home game because my family all live around the area.

“I’ve got so many people that come and support me every week, so to see them after the game, and see you know how happy it makes them, that’s probably the most satisfying thing about what I do and trying to make them proud every week. So, I think that would definitely be it.”

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