Brewer braced for Brive test

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The Independent Online

Sale Sharks head coach Mike Brewer will read little into Brive's current "crisis club" status ahead of today's Amlin Challenge Cup game in France.

The 1997 European champions have lost their way in domestic rugby this term, going three months without a league win. Brive began the campaign with a bang, beating Perpignan, Toulon and Stade Français, but their last seven Top 14 fixtures have produced six defeats and a draw.

This dismal run has raised speculation about the future of Brive's coaching team, although their Challenge Cup quarter-final hopes remain strong. Like Sale, Brive won their opening Pool Two fixtures and picked up a maximum 10 points, which sets up both today's encounter and the return at Edgeley Park tomorrow week.

"They are under a lot of pressure, but sometimes that can help a side," said Sale head coach Brewer. "They can take the shackles off and play a bit, and when Brive play a bit they are a very dangerous side.

"So one of the big things for us will be to try and nullify the Brive crowd. If they score some points and get on a roll, then their crowd will get behind them. But the Brive crowd are like most French crowds. If we get on top of them, the cat-calls and the whistling will start."

Brewer welcomes back England pair Mark Cueto and Andrew Sheridan from Test duty in a line-up that also features former Brive player Ben Cohen and Wales international scrum-half Dwayne Peel, who has recovered from a slight groin injury.

England centre Mike Tindall will captain Gloucester in their Pool Five meeting with La Rochelle at Stade Marcel Deflandre today, where a win could put the west country club in top spot. "It's a must-win game for us, to be honest," said Gloucester head coach Bryan Redpath. "If we don't win, then it is potentially going to be very difficult for us to progress. So this is the key game in the whole competition for us. If we lose, potentially that's it for us, but we are ready for the challenge and excited about it."