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European Champions Cup: Opponents preview – Round Two

Rich Dore

18 Oct 2017

The second round of the European Champions Cup is incoming this weekend and there’s seven Guinness PRO14 sides in action once again.

One of the games of the round looks set to be the all-Guinness PRO14 clash between Glasgow Warriors and Leinster Rugby on Saturday, with Dave Rennie’s side impressing in defeat to Aviva Premiership champions Exeter Chiefs last week.

Ahead of the weekend’s fixtures we take a look at the opposition set to line up against the Guinness PRO14 teams.

FRIDAY

Scarlets v Bath Rugby
Kick-off: 19.45
Venue: Parc y Scarlets

The weekend’s Champions Cup action kicks off on Friday night in West Wales, in what should be a cracker of a game.

The Scarlets are in fine form, sitting atop Conference B in the Guinness PRO14 and having produced a heroic second-half performance in the south of France on Sunday to give Toulon a fright in a 21-20 defeat.

Bath, Scarlets’ opponents on Friday, are in fine fettle themselves coming off the back of Saturday’s 23-0 win over Benetton Rugby in Round One of the Champions Cup – following up Aviva Premiership wins over Worcester Warriors and Wasps.

Todd Blackadder’s side didn’t manage to get a bonus point against Benetton but they have no shortage of world class players – the likes of Anthony Watson and Semesa Rokoduguni can cause any team problems and domestic fans will know all about the abilities of former Dragon Toby Faletau.


SATURDAY

Glasgow Warriors v Leinster Rugby
Kick-off: 13.00
Venue: Scotstoun Stadium

These two sides know all about each other having battled it out in the Guinness PRO14 over the years – they’re in different conferences this season but the Champions Cup allows them to renew acquaintances early in the season.


Benetton Rugby v Toulon
Kick-off: 16.15
Stadio Comunal di Monigo

Benetton welcome three-time champions Toulon to Italy on Saturday and will fancy their chances in a huge clash against the French giants.

The Italians have had an excellent start to the Guinness PRO14 season with three wins so far, and come up against a Toulon side that looked unconvincing at times in their win over the Scarlets on Sunday.

Fabien Galthié’s side started that game on fire, with early tries for scrum-half Eric Escande and skipper Guilhem Guirado, but looked increasingly shaky in defence throughout the game and allowed the Welsh region to get two tries back.

One player Benetton will have to look out for is bullocking winger Josua Tuisova, who’s in excellent form – that is, when they’re not watching out for Ma’a Nonu, Mathieu Bastareaud and Chris Ashton.


Munster Rugby v Racing 92
Kick-off: 17.30
Thomond Park

Later in the day comes another titanic tussle as Munster welcome the star-studded Racing 92 to Limerick a week after Rassie Erasmus’ side drew 17-17 at Castres.

Racing, meanwhile, were able to get a first-round win but only just as Leicester Tigers pushed them hard in Paris, the hosts eventually winning 22-18.

The game sees Munster’s all-time leading points scorer Ronan O’Gara return to the club as assistant coach of Racing, but it’s unclear as of yet whether fly-half Dan Carter will return from injury for the match.


The Irish province will need to find a way to deal with giant Fijian lock Leone Nakarawa after he produced a man-of-the-match performance against the Tigers – winger’s Juan Imhoff and Joe Rokocoko are likely to provide the threat from out wide.

Saracens v Ospreys
Kick-off: 19.45
Venue: Allianz Park

The Ospreys produced a stirring second-half comeback to give Clermont Auvergne a real fright in their 26-21 defeat to the Frenchmen on Sunday.

The challenge for Steve Tandy’s side though appears to get steeper still this weekend with a trip to European champions Saracens – the better news is that feline friend Scott Baldwin has been cleared to play in the game.

Mark McCall’s Saracens were at their imperious best in their 57-13 drubbing of Northampton Saints at the weekend, delivering a complete, eight-try performance that made a big statement on their intentions in the tournament this year.

Former Scarlets man Liam Williams had an excellent afternoon, scoring two well-taken tries, whilst centre Brad Barritt bossed things in the middle and fly-half Owen Farrell was at his metronomic best with the boot.

SUNDAY

La Rochelle v Ulster Rugby
Kick-off: 16.15
Venue: Stade Marcel-Deflandre

This match promises to be a fascinating encounter with Ulster in great form following a Guinness PRO14 win over Connacht 12 days ago and the 19-9 European victory over Wasps on Friday night.


The defeat of the dangerous English side owed a lot to the skills of back-three players Jacob Stockdale and Charles Piutau, and on Sunday Ulster face-off against another side who carry plenty of threat.

La Rochelle’s 34-27 triumph away at Harlequins was one of the games of the weekend, largely in part because the men from the west coast of France seemed willing to run the ball from anywhere and in accurate fashion.

Centre Geoffrey Doumayrou was majestic, stand-off Ryan Lamb pulled the strings, and Ulster will come up against considerable heft on Sunday in the shape of French prop Uini Antonio and All Black No.8 Victor Vito.

Guinness PRO14 Final 2018 Ticket Information: Fans can save up to 20% on selected tickets, and prices start at just €30 for adults and €5 for children, and be booked via www.ticketmaster.ie