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European Challenge Cup Round Three – Five Guinness PRO14 sides in action

The European Challenge Cup returns for two more crucial rounds this weekend with plenty of Guinness PRO14 teams well set in their respective pools.

The Dragons welcome Russian side Enisei-STM with Edinburgh Rugby and Zebre both hosting teams from the Premiership in London Irish and Gloucester Rugby respectively.

Elsewhere, Cardiff Blues travel to Sale Sharks and Connacht are in France to face Brive.

Read our full opponents preview here.

FRIDAY

Dragons v Enisei-STM
KO 7.30pm
Venue: Rodney Parade

The Dragons have won one lost one so far in the European Challenge Cup and will be extremely well-placed in Pool 1 with a victory over Enisei-STM.

A thrilling 32-32 draw with Ulster will give the Wales-side confidence with 20-year-old Arwel Robson set to make his European debut at fly-half.

Scrum-half Dan Babos will also make his first European appearance with head coach Bernard Jackman looking for just one thing from his squad.

“Character is everything. Character is more important than talent. But now we have to back it up, we can’t just do it when we are being put under pressure,” he said.

“I think we just need to represent the region well. Fans will accept this year if we don’t win every game and if they see big commitment, sacrifice and abrasiveness then they are going to follow us.”

SATURDAY

Sale Sharks v Cardiff Blues
KO 3pm
Venue: AJ Bell Stadium

Cardiff Blues sit top of Pool 2 with two wins but were well beaten by Glasgow Warriors last weekend and face a tough test against a Sale Sharks who are yet to win in the competition.

The Blues will be without Taufa’ao Filise due to suspension after his red card last week but have been boosted by the news that Lloyd Williams has signed a new contract.

“I wanted to remain in Wales, that’s the best thing for me and I’m very happy at the club – I have some of my best mates beside me and I feel it’s a really strong team with a lot of optimism,” he said.

“I really feel we have a talented group and I’m sure the right people are making the right decisions in terms of who is going to be appointed and hopefully it will be a great appointment for us.”

Zebre v Gloucester
KO 1.30pm
Stadio Lanfranchi

Italian side Zebre have struggled so far to transfer their Guinness PRO14 form into the European Challenge Cup and sit bottom of Pool 3.

Their slim hopes of progression are reliant on a win against Gloucester who themselves are flying high in the Premiership and sit second in the league table.

Zebre have always been able to put in a performance at home and will be looking to repeat their stunning 24-10 win over Connacht against the Cherry & Whites on Saturday.

Edinburgh v London Irish
KO 7.35pm
Myreside

Edinburgh have taken all 10 points on offer in the European Challenge Cup thus far and another win over Premiership bottom side London Irish will send them well on their way to the knockout stages.

The Scots have scored over 100 points in their opening two games, against Stade Francais and Krasny Yar, and conceded just 28 to highlight their good form.

Edinburgh have been on a good streak in the league too with their 48-21 victory over Southern Kings at the Nelson Mandela Stadium last week their fourth win in their last five.

There will be no Michele Rizzo for Edinburgh this weekend after he returned to parent club Leicester Tigers with Matt Shields from Rotherham Titans signing until the end of the season in his place.

Brive v Connacht
KO 8pm
Stadium Municipal

In the final European Challenge Cup pool, it is Connacht who lead the way after two wins from two and nine points already in the bag.

And the Irish province may be glad of the return of Europe after suffering back-to-back away defeats in the league to Cardiff Blues and Zebre.

They’re on the road again this week as they travel to France to face Brive with Craig Ronaldson and Peter Robb having completed a full week of training after calf and hip injuries respectively.

Stacey Ili is also available for selection after a shoulder knock with back row James Connolly suffering no negative effects from his injury return against Zebre last week.

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 can be booked via www.ticketmaster.ie