Edinburgh kick off another vital European fortnight in the Challenge Cup

Charlie Talbot-Smith
05 December 2019

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European rugby is back this weekend, and for the Challenge Cup contenders it all gets underway on Friday night.

The Christmas double headers make or break a team’s hopes of the knockout stages and there are plenty of Guinness PRO14 sides dreaming of Marseille coming into this vital fortnight.

FRIDAY

Edinburgh v Wasps
19:35, BT Murrayfield

Edinburgh hope they are a proper contender in the Challenge Cup this year.

A season on from an impressive run to the Champions Cup last eight, they are at home this weekend and realistically must beat Wasps to stay in charge of their own fate.

The omens are good, despite this being the first meeting between these two sides in this competition, as Edinburgh have not lost a home Challenge Cup pool game in their last 14.

They did draw last time out to Bordeaux though so will need to get back on the horse against a Wasps side they last met in 2008.

Richard Cockerill’s side have spent the most time in possession in this competition after two rounds, but will need to keep an eye out for Wasps back row Jack Willis who starts again this weekend and has made eight turnovers already.


SATURDAY

Worcester Warriors v Dragons
15:00, Sixways

The Dragons are the Guinness PRO14’s best-performing side in Europe.

Only they and Bristol Bears have ten points from ten heading into round three but they will be severely tested at Sixways.

Worcester Warriors are in fine form in the Premiership, have an impressive home record and will be itching to close the gap to the Dragons.

Dean Ryan’s side need a response after their drubbing at home in the league to Zebre, but have only ever won twice out of 17 away games against Premiership opponents.

But in Dafydd Howells and Jordan Williams, should the latter be fit, they have two of the top four metre makers in the entire competition.


Zebre v Brive
15:00, Stadio Sergio Lanfranchi

Zebre have lost two from two in the Challenge Cup, so defeat on Saturday to Brive will end their chances of the knockout rounds.

But they will come into the game full of confidence on the back of a pulsating win at the Dragons in the league.

They did the double over Brive the last time they were drawn together in this competition back in 2014/15 but have lost six of their last seven against Top 14 opposition.

This is a good time to play Brive though, they were held scoreless by Bristol last time out while Zebre’s free-flowing rugby – they are the only team in the competition yet to kick a penalty – is showing signs of finally clicking into gear.


Cardiff Blues v Pau
19:45, Cardiff Arms Park

The Cardiff Blues have happy memories of facing Pau.

Indeed, when the Welsh region won this competition back in 2018 it was the French side that they downed in the semi-finals en route to the title.

The Blues have enjoyed themselves of late against French opponents, winning nine in a row against Top 14 sides and their defence has been very impressive across the opening two rounds with the best tackle success rate in the competition.

Pau have the top carrier however, Baptiste Pesenti, and will arrive at the Arms Park eager to cause an upset.

But both sides need a win to keep pace with table toppers Leicester Tigers.


Bayonne v Scarlets
20:00, Stade Jean Dauger

Scarlets have not won in France since January 2014, but they could have hardly picked a better opponent to try and end that run.

While the two sides have never met before in Europe, Bayonne have lost nine games in a row in Europe, their worst-ever run.

Brad Mooar’s side need to muster a response after their league humbling to Ulster, and will have a point to prove after the heartbreak in Toulon.

Their discipline must improve, the region were the most penalised side across the opening two rounds, but their attacking game has impressed.

But beware Bayonne’s Guillaume Ducat, the lineout thief extraordinaire who has made six steals across two rounds – no other player has more than two!


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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