Only two rounds remain in this season’s Challenge Cup pool stages and it’s tight on the knockout stage qualification front. Robert Rees ranks each team in the latest LWOR power rankings.
1st – Bristol Bears (-)
The Bears have romped their way to the top of pool four, dropping only a bonus point against Stade in France. Their attacking nature has seen their players blossom against their European counterparts and will be sure to aid their domestic form as well.
Bristol will be looking to get into the final with this form and keep their top spot in the rankings.
2nd – Toulon (Up 1)
Toulon. Hat-trick winners of the Champions Cup really shouldn’t have found themselves in this com petition with the squad they have. After a steady start they’ve really ramped up the pressure on their fellow pool opponents.
With the likes of Etzebeth also now at the club, they will be sure to cause anyone problems on this form.
3rd – Leicester Tigers (Up 1)
It’s probably a slight surprise that the side sitting 11th in the Gallagher Premiership is looking so good and remains unbeaten in the Challenge Cup, but that’s exactly what Leicester have done.
They haven’t always looked convincing, but they have found a way to win all four games, which is what a good side can do.
— Challenge Cup (@ERChallengeCup) December 18, 2019
4th – Bordeaux (Up 2)
Bordeaux are yet to be beaten, only a draw against Edinburgh blots their paper. With the likes of Semi Radradra in their ranks they have potent weapons as well as a powerful pack to lead them on a charge.
They are very much a momentum side and are looking good at the peak of pool three as a reward of their performances. They’ll have to keep it up though with Edinburgh hot on their heels.
5th – Edinburgh (-)
Speaking of Edinburgh, they retain fifth spot in our rankings. Richard Cockerill’s side have shown plenty of guts, both against Wasps away to steal a win and to hold Bordeaux to the draw.
6th – Dragons (Down 4)
A large drop for Dean Ryan’s men following a disappointing defeat away to a much-changed Worcester side. They sill control their own destiny at the top of pool one, but will have to perform much better than they have done in the last two games to overhaul Castres again.
7th – Scarlets (Up 2)
The Scarlets have risen up the rankings following two good wins over Bayonne. Some scintillating rugby from the West Walians leaves them with a good shot of chasing down pool leaders Toulon and knockout stage qualification.
8th – Castres (Up 5)
Castres are the biggest jumpers in this week’s list, rising five places as a result of dominant performances over Enisei. They looked disinterested when they lost to the Dragons in round one, but have since found their mojo.
9th – Worcester Warriors (Down 1)
Worcester have very much prioritised the Premiership and as such their second team looked poor at Rodney Parade and only just found a way to scrape past the 14 men in their home fixture.
— Challenge Cup (@ERChallengeCup) December 19, 2019
10th – Cardiff Blues (-)
The Blues remain tenth after a mixed set of fixtures against Pau. A rousing performance at the Arms Park saw them cruise to victory and look unbeatable in their kicking game. One week on and Pau outmuscled them and even a Owen Lane hat-trick couldn’t rescue the win.
11th – Brive (Up 4)
Brive are large risers in the latest power rankings after their performances against Pro14 outfit Zebre. A strong win at home and an unlucky, yet plucky loss by just three points away moves them up the ranks after a very dismal start to their campaign.
12th – Pau (-)
Pau remain where they are following two Jekyll and Hyde performances against the Blues. Completely dominated in their away game, but completely in control for the majority of their home game doesn’t give Pau much hope of going through.
13th – London Irish (Down 6)
The biggest fallers in our rankings are Les Kiss’ side. Irish have now lost back to back games following two heavy defeats at the hands of Toulon and only have their win over Bayonne to boast of.
14th – Wasps (Down 3)
Dai Young’s side will be furious with themselves for throwing away their game against Edinburgh via a late penalty. They controlled the game and scored its only try but still couldn’t beat Edinburgh in either of their games.
— Challenge Cup (@ERChallengeCup) December 17, 2019
15th – Stade Francais (Down 1)
Stade look out of sorts for what we’d expect off them. A very disappointing loss at Ashton Gate meant they were rock bottom of their pool and out of qualification. A week later they looked much better and only a Harry Thacker try on 78 minutes prevented them winning.
16th – Zebre (Up 1)
Zebre climb up just the one place, mainly out of the poor performances of those around them and partly down to their win over Brive. The Italians haven’t looked their usual stubborn to beat selves and as a result are third in pool four.
17th – Bayonne (Down 1)
Bayonne languish at the foot of their pool after two losses at the hands of the Scarlets. One heavy defeat at Parc Y Scarlets and a sloppy loss at home leaves them without a hope of knockout qualification.
18th – Enisei (-)
Enisei hold their ground after two defeats at the hands of Castres that left wanting. The Russians haven’t had much to shout about this campaign and will have to do better to avoid two more heavy losses against Worcester and the Dragons.
19th – Calvisano (Up 1)
Calvisano rise a spot following their physical battle against Leicester last week. They may have lost, but they made it very difficult for the Tigers and as such warrant a spot above Agen.
20th – Agen – (Down 1)
Agen hit the bottom of our power rankings following two abhorrent performances against Bordeaux. With just three tries to their name they have conceded a whopping 24, losing 106-9 over the two games against their fellow Top14 side.
“Main photo credit”