Challenge Cup: Top 3 Fixtures This Weekend

Paul O'Connell Stade Français' new Forwards Coach
Paul O'Connell Stade Français' new Forwards Coach

After such a dramatic finale to last season's competition, the European Challenge Cup returns this weekend and TRU's Joe Harvey has selected three of the top fixtures from the first round of action.

Northampton Saints vs ASM Clermont Auvergne - Saturday

Well, these are two sides that you’d really expect to see in the Champions Cup. Clermont are the Champions Cup’s perennial underachievers, but this season they won’t be present. With that said, neither side will be short on star quality.

The French side can boast having Tim Nanai-Williams, Nick Abendanon, Greig Laidlaw and Camille Lopez in their side. And that’s just naming a few.

Northampton can speak glowing about their side as well, with James Haskell, Dan Biggar and Taqele Naiyaravoro in their ranks.

Easily the most exciting fixture in this round of fixtures, both sides come into this game off the back of a loss. Therefore, Northampton and Clermont will be looking to get return to winning ways this weekend and the Challenge Cup could be the perfect remedy.

Harlequins vs Agen - Saturday

Much like Saints, Quins come into this fixture having lost a very competitive London derby against arch-rivals Saracens. Quins really upped their performance levels for that fixture and the Stoop’s faithful will be wishing for a similar display this weekend.

What remains unclear is where this competition ranks for Paul Gustard. Still only a couple of months into his new job, it could be unwise for the head coach to play a full-strength side in risk of injury or fatigue that could keep them out of a crucial Premiership campaign.

Opposition Agen are a difficult side to analyse. The only thing that is really prevalent with the Frenchmen is that they are very inconsistent, especially on their travels. Being dismantled 33-3 on a recent trip to Toulon, they didn’t manage a single point in a 10-0 loss at Toulouse last weekend. Quins must take advantage of this.

Stade Français Paris vs Worcester Warriors - Saturday

Most of the excitement for this game can be credited to Worcester’s 52-7 win over Bristol last Sunday. Alan Solomons’ players looked great as they dismantled their opponents and it bodes well going into this game against an in-form Stade side.

Parisians Stade Français have only lost one of their last three games, with both of their wins coming on the road. Sitting second in the Top 14, this has all the potential of being a really good fixture. Anyone interested in Irish rugby may want to watch Stade's forwards to see how well they are faring under the legendary Paul O'Connell.

With this game being in Paris, the outcome of the match heavily favours Stade. But as Worcester showed in their surprise victory at Welford Road a couple of weeks ago; anything is possible.


Friday – Perpignan vs Sale Sharks

Saturday – Enisei-STM vs La Rochelle, Timisoara Saracens vs Dragons, Benetton Rugby vs Grenoble, Ospreys vs Pau, Northampton Saints vs ASM Clermont Auvergne, Harlequins vs Agen, Bristol Bears vs Zebre Rugby Club, Connacht Rugby vs Bordeaux-Begles, Stade Francais Paris vs Worcester Warriors.

Continental Cup Fixtures:

Saturday – RC Locomotive Tbilisi vs Rugby Calvisano, Femi-CZ Rugby Rovigo Delta vs Argos Rugby Petrarca