The Champions Cup kicked off with a bang last weekend, continuing his focus on Pool 2, David Challis has all the lowdown on this weekend’s matches. Sale and La Rochelle face off in a match that could decide their destiny even though it is only round 2 after they both lost last weekend. Conversely, Exeter and Glasgow fight it out to take control of Pool 2 and boost their hopes of a Champions Cup quarter-final.
Sale vs La Rochelle: Do or Die?
When: Sunday, November 24. 1 pm | Where: AJ Bell Stadium
It is possible to come out of the pool stages having only won four games but it is extremely rare. That is the task that faces whoever loses this match at the weekend making it a do or die situation.
Both sides are used to Champions Cup rugby but the pressure faced in this Pool 2 is hard to replicate. This competition has quickly become almost knockout rugby for these two sides and a lot is riding on this weekend.
Home advantage should play a significant role for Sale especially given the propensity for French sides to struggle away. However, Steve Diamond’s men are yet to hit their straps so far this campaign and need a big performance to get their season back on track.
International Stars need to Shine
Embed from Getty Images
Sale is set to welcome back world cup stars, de Klerk, Curry and Wilson to their side. All of which will make a big difference. However, as we saw last weekend, how they will settle back in is often not as straightforward as coaches would expect.
From La Rochelle’s point of view, they simply need their star power to perform. Big-name leaders like Vito, West and Kerr-Barlow are the spine of this side. Without their leaders, they do not stand a chance in Manchester.
Exeter vs Glasgow – A Chance to Take Control
When: Saturday, Nov 23. 3:15 pm | Where: Sandy Park
Stuart Hogg probably wished he could wait a little longer before facing his former club. However, he does not have that luxury. DTH van der Merve was quick to point out that he would not have an easy ride when Glasgow come to Sandy Park on Saturday.
Exeter, on the other hand, are keen for their new signing to be the difference this weekend. Forwards Coach Rob Hunter said that everyone is “very focussed on performing for him [Hogg] at the weekend”.
Two teams stacked with talent, but who are you expecting to come out on top in Round 2️⃣ ? ?
Check out our match preview ? ? pic.twitter.com/UBgQgFzxH1
— Heineken Champions Cup (@ChampionsCup) November 19, 2019
Importance of Backing up performances
Winning one game in Europe is one thing but backing it up is another. Both of these sides find themselves in the privileged position of having a good start. However, that will mean nothing if they are unable to perform on Saturday. Hunter said;
“we’ve got to make sure we back up the performance this weekend”
This is something that departing head coach Dave Rennie will be keen to impart onto his players. In his final season at the club, a strong European run will be at the forefront of Rennie’s mind and this weekend is central to that.
Champions Cup Round two Concluding thoughts
French teams famously do not travel well and there is little reason to expect this to change this weekend. Do not expect a classic at the AJ Bell with both sides fighting for their lives. However, Sale is likely to edge this one with their big names back in the side.
At Sandy Park their appears to be a different edge around the Exeter side in Europe, really could be their year. They are embracing the knockout facet of the competition this year. Hunter stressed “a change in our mindset” this season and expect that to pay off on Saturday in Pool 2 of the Champions Cup.
“Main Photo Credits”
Embed from Getty Images