Edinburgh, Scarlets, Blues and Dragons eye Challenge Cup double

Joe Leavey
21 November 2019

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After an opening round of Challenge Cup action, the Guinness PRO14’s five representatives will be keen to put themselves in the best possible position ahead of a return to domestic action next week.

There were wins for Edinburgh Rugby, Cardiff Blues, Dragons and Scarlets in round 1, while Zebre were the only side to taste defeat after their trip to Bristol Bears.

The pools are therefore currently a pretty picture at the European competition’s nascent stage, with Edinburgh and the Blues sitting pretty at the top of their respective groups – but there is plenty of work to do before the knockouts begin next year.

And it all continues with yet another bumper weekend of action – here’s what to look out for.

FRIDAY

Enisei-STM v Dragons
15:00 (UK), Kuban Stadium

The Dragons away-day troubles were an issue that had long plagued the Newport side, but victory over Zebre back in Round 2 of the Guinness PRO14 banished the hoodoo.

Now, they will look to seal another triumph on the road as they travel to Russia with statistics in their favour.


Four times they have previously faced Enisei-STM – and they have emerged victorious in the last three.

Add to that the fact that the hosts will be something of a wounded animal after a heavy round 1 defeat to Worcester Warriors, and the Dragons will certainly be backing their chances.

Edinburgh Rugby v Bordeaux Begles
19:35, BT Murrayfield

Another side with the wind in their sales are Richard Cockerill’s men: victory at Agen was their third win in their last four matches.

But they face a tough ask in the shape of a strong Bordeaux side, who toppled Wasps 40-30 last weekend.

Again, however, previous meetings are weighted in their favour: Edinburgh have won both of their previous encounters against the French side, as well as all of their last 13 pool stage Challenge Cup matches on home soil.

RC Toulon v Scarlets
20:00 (UK), Stade Felix Mayol

With six wins from seven so far this season, the Scarlets are on fire, and now they’ve got French giants in their sights.

Three times have RC Toulon won the Champions Cup, while they were runners up in the Challenge back in 2010 and 2012.

The Welsh outfit, meanwhile, are new to the competition, having missed out on Champions Cup qualification for the first time last season.

But they were keen to make their presence known at the first time of asking as they edged out London Irish in round 1.

They face a stiff test, however, with a trip to the Stade Felix Mayol – a venue where the hosts have not lost in their last nine Challenge Cup matches.


SATURDAY

Zebre v Stade Francais
16:00 (ITA), Stadio Sergio Lanfranchi

The only Guinness PRO14 side without a win in round 1 will look to put things right when Stade Francais – the other Pool 4 side to lose last week – come to Parma.

Yet to end up on the right side of a score line this season, Zebre will be smarting for a result, especially after their 59-21 defeat at Bristol Bears.

Coming up against one of the biggest teams in French rugby, the Italians will therefore be advised to ignore the name alone, and might spy a result given Stade Francais’ recent travails in Europe.

Cardiff Blues v Leicester Tigers
20:00, Cardiff Arms Park

The Guinness PRO14 Challenge Cup interest draws to a close until December when the Blues welcome Leicester to the Welsh capital on Saturday night.

Seven times the sides have met in the past, with the hosts having won only one – a 23-9 triumph back in 2008.

But the 2018 Challenge Cup champions will look to make that two and put themselves in prime position for progression after last weekend’s 38-16 win at Rugby Calvisano.


Cardiff City Stadium will play host to the 2020 Guinness PRO14 Final on June 20 as one of the most exciting days in the club rugby calendar comes to Wales!

General sale tickets are available from http://bit.ly/PRO14Cardiff2020 and prices start at just £13 for concessions and £26 for adults (subject to booking fees), that’s a 15% early bird discount. Family ticket (2 adults / 2 children) prices begin at £64 and fans are encouraged to buy early to get the best value tickets.

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