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European Rugby Champions Cup Round One Preview

With a brand-spanking new name and fancy format, this weekend sees the first play of the European Rugby Champions Cup, which replaces the Heineken Cup. With five pools including the best teams from across six countries, there are 10 high profile games to keep an eye on over the weekend. So, to make things easier (although a few scheduling issues might prove it difficult), here are some key points to look forward to that should give this tournament the exciting debut it deserves.


European Rugby Champions Cup Round One

Saracens v ASM Clermont Auvergne

Saturday 18th October 2014

3.15pm KO

Despite neither team boasting silverware from the old European tournament, Saracens begin as somewhat favourites in Pool 1 thanks to their runners-up finish in last seasons Aviva Premiership. The top seed’s won’t have it easy, though; Clermont came third in the Top14 last year and have beaten Sarries on three out of the four occasions that they have met in the Heineken Cup. However on their last meet, which just happened to be the semi-final, the English pack dominated the flustered French side to a 46-6 victory. Using this, as well as a home-turf advantage, can Saracens keep their reputation within their pool and keep Clermont from the top of the table?


Glasgow Warriors v Bath Rugby

Saturday 18th October 2014

3.15pm KO

Glasgow shouldn’t be dismissed when it comes to this fixture. On paper, Bath should run away with this match as they have won five out of the six meets between these two clubs, and have also made a great start in the Premiership. On the other hand, the Warriors finished second to Leinster in the Pro12 and have displayed a comfortable style of open play, similar to that played by the team from the West Country. Perhaps Bath are missing the talents of Sam Burgess, who might have been able to play if it were not for his injury sustained in the NRL Grand Final, but not ones to linger on what could have been, Mike Ford’s squad will still bring skill and accuracy to the game. Both sides harbour strength and power in their forwards and flair and quick-thinking amongst their backs, producing what should be a game that sees sparks fly.


Leicester Tigers v Ulster Rugby

Saturday 18th October 2014

7.45pm KO

Every pool in this tournament has it’s demons and Pool 3 is no different, with Toulon being deemed as early favourites. Therefore it falls to this match to determine who will rival Toulon at the top. It is well-known that Tigers have not been on great form recently and, statistically speaking, Ulster should have this. In the six Heineken Cup games that these two clubs have played against each other in, Ulster have scored two more tries and totalled up 23 more points than their Midlands-based counterparts, although Tigers won the tournament twice, whereas Ulster were champions only once. Their last meeting at the start of this year saw a 19-22 victory for Ulster, with Ruan Pienaar scoring all of those points. However, Pienaar will not feature in Saturday’s game, which could play to Tigers advantage on home soil.


RC Toulon v Scarlets

Sunday 19th October 2014

4.15pm KO

Most England fans will be more interested in seeing if Steffon Armitage features in this game than the actual game itself. His appearance would mean that he will not make a mid-season move to the Premiership and is another blow to the hopes of him making Stuart Lancaster’s team for next year’s World Cup. This aside, the French have won all of their last three European games and hold an 80% winning record in the Heineken Cup, belittling Scarlets’ 49%. As two-time champions throughout Europe, Toulon are expected to be victorious over the Welsh squad, although as it has been proven before, when it comes cross-nation club rugby, nobody should hold their breath.


Leinster Rugby v Wasps

Sunday 19th October 2014

5.15pm KO

Wasps won two out of the three matches against Leinster in the old tournament, but only won the Heineken Cup twice compared to Leinster boasting three reigns as champions. Leinster are likely to top Pool 2 and Wasps had to beat Stade Francais to clinch the final spot in the Champions Cup, so there would be no surprise if it were to be a washout for the Coventry-bound side. What makes this game so intriguing, though, is Wasps’ ability to relish as underdogs, as they proved in last Sundays match against Bath. Off the back of a 29-22 win against the Premiership big-boys, Wasps may just shock Leinster and come away from the RDS Arena with a victory.


(Please note, all KO times are in local time.)


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