Challenge Cup power rankings

Gallagher Premiership

The first block of Challenge Cup action has concluded and the teams are already setting out their stall on if they’ll push for knockout qualification. Robert Rees ranks each team from top best to worst, based on their first two performances. 

1. Bristol Bears

The Bears have trialled plenty of youth in this year’s campaign and they have shone. Two bonus point wins against Zebre and Brive leave them on the top of pool four.

If Pat Lam’s side keeps up this form they’ll definitely be trophy contenders come the end of the season and offer a serious threat to anyone in their path.

2. Dragons

Dean Ryan has transformed the Gwent side into a hard-nosed, gritty team. Sitting top of their pool with the maximum ten points isn’t something many would have believed possible before this season had started.

Another young squad working well together has seen them win their first back to back European fixtures for the first time since November 2011.

3. Toulon

The European giant may have drawn a tough pool, but they have shown why they are still a force to be reckoned with. An opening weekend victory against Bayonne yielded a bonus point and they followed this up with a gritty performance against the Scarlets.

They still have to travel to Parc Y Scarlets and face London Irish twice, but Patrice Collazo’s men look in fine fettle to get out of this group.

4. Leicester Tigers

Despite their Premiership struggles the Tigers find themselves unbeaten in the Challenge Cup. A gutsy performance against Cardiff backing up their bonus-point win against Pau.

5. Edinburgh

Unbeaten so far following a win over Top14 outfit Agen, and a draw against Bordeaux. They look dangerous in attack and if they can keep a better hold on their defence will be a very tough team to beat in the later rounds.

6. Bordeaux

Having come off the back of two unbeaten games, like Edinburgh, Bordeaux can feel comfortable in their attacking threats. They have some of the best players in the world in their side, but lack cohesion in defence and often struggle with discipline issues.

7. London Irish

Les Kiss’ men have set about their business with a fairly under the radar set of performances. Nothing flashy in their defeat to the Scarlets backed up by an expected bonus point victory over Bayonne sees them lie seventh in our rankings.

8. Worcester Warriors

Alan Solomons’ team started their campaign with a very convincing win over Russian outfit Enisei. But, a dreadful game against Castres left them looking blue as they test out a younger squad in this season’s Challenge Cup.

9. Scarlets

Brad Mooar’s side began their campaign with a strong performance against London Irish at home and have had to dig deep in both games. Unfortunately, they fell just short in Toulon after a red card to Tevita Ratuva left them with 14 men for the rest of the game.

10. Cardiff Blues

Cardiff started their campaign against Italian Top12 team Calvisano, claiming their bonus point with plenty of youthful talent shining along the way. A blunt performance against Leicester costing them an ideal start to their Challenge Cup.

11. Wasps

Ill-discipline has killed Dai Young’s side thus far this season. Opening their accounts against Bordeaux, they looked sloppy and fell to a defeat in which they still scored over 30 points. They improved against Agen and looked a much more dangerous side.

12. Pau

The Top14 outfit reached the semi-finals just a few seasons back. They look slightly less threatening this time out though. Losing to a out of form Leicester side in round one, they only got off the mark against a limited Calvisano team a week later.

13. Castres

Falling into the Challenge Cup after spending last season in the Champions Cup, Castres have looked a mixed bag thus far. The Dragons dominated them at Rodney Parade, but they took control of a young Worcester side in round two.

14. Stade Francais

Struggling Top14 side Stade Francais have looked nearly as bad in the Challenge Cup as they have their league. Beaten by fellow countrymen Brive in round one, they narrowly scraped past Zebre to get their first and only points of the competition so far.

15. Brive

Only one victory to their name and looked poor against their only real opposition to date. Will probably turn their attentions to Top14 survival.

16. Bayonne

Have drawn a tough group, but have been close but no cigar in both their games to date. Held on against Toulon and only claimed a try bonus point in defeat to London Irish.

17. Zebre

Despite showing promise in recent years, the Italian outfit have looked dire and out of sorts in this year’s Challenge Cup. No threat in attack and struggling to keep teams out.

18. Enisei

Have shown the odd glimpse of talent, but playing away from their natural home due to weather issues hasn’t helped a team which lacks any cohesion or real flair.

19. Agen

On e of three teams to yet get off the mark, Agen have been very poor against both Edinburgh and Wasps.

20. Calvisano

Probably the worst team in the competition on paper and have lived up to that. No real attacking threats and only feeding off their oppositions mistakes, the Italians will just hope to get off the whitewash.


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