European Challenge Cup Round Five: Five Guinness PRO14 sides in action

Charlie Talbot-Smith
11 January 2018

Share this article

The European Challenge Cup rolls back into town this weekend and there are five Guinness PRO14 clubs in action.

The likes of Connacht and Edinburgh are looking to secure their berths in the knockout stages with a round to spare.

Meanwhile, Zebre and the Dragons can build momentum for the second half of the season and Cardiff Blues face an historic clash on home soil.

FRIDAY

Edinburgh Rugby v Stade Francais
Kick-off: 7.35pm
Venue: BT Murrayfield

So far, so good for Richard Cockerill and Edinburgh in Europe this season.

The Scottish side have won 13 of their last 14 home fixtures in the Challenge Cup, with their only defeat in that run coming in last season’s quarter-final against La Rochelle.

They are the top points (238) and try (35) scorers in the Challenge Cup after four rounds.

They have a maximum 20 points from 20 and if they manage to defeat Stade Francais at BT Murrayfield on Friday evening, they will win Pool Four and secure a home quarter-final.

Stade – the defending champions – are currently eight points behind Pool Four leaders Edinburgh but racked up back-to-back victories in their last two Challenge Cup games, beating Krasny Yar 39-24 before edging out London Irish 26-20 at the Madejski Stadium.

SATURDAY

Worcester Warriors v Connacht
Kick-off: 3pm
Venue: Sixways Stadium

If Connacht happen to come away from Worcester Warriors on Saturday with a victory, the Irish province will win Pool Five and book their spot in the knockout stage for the ninth time.

If selected, captain John Muldoon will make his 50th Challenge Cup appearance but it is his teammate Jack Carty who has been key to their impressive four wins from four so far.

The fly-half is the competition’s leading scorer with 53 points after four rounds.

The clubs have met five times previously, with Worcester winning the first meeting back in 2005-06 – however, Connacht have won all four games since then.

Pau v Zebre
Kick-off: 6pm (local time)
Venue: Stade du Hameau

Michael Bradley’s Zebre have only won one of their three trips to France in European competition to date and come up against a Pau side full of confidence.

Zebre won on their first trip to France – against Brive in 2014-15 – however, they have lost all three matches away to TOP 14 opposition since then.

The Italians have averaged 14.8 penalties conceded per game so far, more than any other side.

They came close in Parma in the reverse fixture but the Top 14 side ran out 38-33 victors.

Bordeaux-Bègles v Dragons
Kick-off: 9pm (local time)
Venue: Stade Chaban-Delmas

Bernard Jackman’s Dragons have won six of their last eight pool games against TOP 14 opposition, losing twice, although both defeats in that run came in France.

The clubs have met twice previously, both encounters coming during the 2013-14 pool stage, with the home side on the day winning each match.

The kicking of Angus O’Brien could be key for Jackman – the Welshman has laid on four tries with his kicking from hand and will be hoping for more this weekend.

Bordeaux-Bègles have lost just one of their six previous games against Welsh opposition in the Challenge Cup while their biggest victory in the competition came at home to Ebbw Vale in 1996.

SUNDAY

Cardiff Blues v Toulouse
Kick-off 5.30pm
Venue: Cardiff Arms Park

The first-ever European final saw Cardiff Blues take on Toulouse, and it is happening again this weekend.

But this time, it is in the Challenge Cup as the Blues aim to hold off Toulouse in their Pool.

A Jarrod Evans conversion helped the Blues down the French side when they met at the Stade Ernest Wallon, Danny Wilson’s emerging 17-15 winners.

This will be the second meeting between the clubs in the Challenge Cup but their tenth encounter in Europe overall.

Cardiff Blues have won on all three occasions when they’ve hosted Toulouse in Europe, all in the European Cup. All three fixtures were won by single figure margins.

Cardiff Blues top their pool despite having scored fewer points (60) than any other side in the Challenge Cup this season after four rounds.

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

Share this article