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European action returns for Aviva Premiership Rugby clubs

European action returns for Aviva Premiership Rugby clubs

Aviva Premiership Rugby takes a two-week break ahead of Christmas as our teams continue their respective European campaigns.

Here we look at the state of play in the Champions and Challenge Cup with some extremely tasty match-ups as the Aviva Premiership Rugby sides take on the best of Europe.

CHAMPIONS CUP

Pool 1 – La Rochelle v Wasps, Harlequins v Ulster

Wasps head to France to take on unbeaten La Rochelle in a crucial match for their qualification hopes this weekend.

After defeat to Ulster in Round 1, Wasps bounced back well to see off Harlequins 41-10 in Round 2 and sit second in the pool.

Harlequins meanwhile are in desperate need of a win after two defeats so far in the competition but come into the game fresh from morale-boosting win over Saracens on Sunday.

Pool 2 – Saracens v Clermont Auvergne, Northampton Saints v Ospreys

Reigning European champions Saracens have looked impressive in the competition once again this term with two try-bonus point wins against Northampton Saints and Ospreys.

They sit top of Pool 2 but face a stiff test against Clermont Auvergne who also have two wins from two in Europe and faced them in last season’s final.

The Saints meanwhile have yet to pick up a point and must be targeting back to back wins over the Ospreys to stand any chance of qualification.

Pool 3 – Exeter Chiefs v Leinster

Arguably two of the most in-form teams in Europe in Exeter Chiefs and Leinster go head-to-head this weekend in one of the biggest games in Round 3.

Both sides have already registered wins over Montpellier and Glasgow Warriors in Pool 3 with Leinster currently top of the pile thanks to two bonus point wins.

The reigning Aviva Premiership Rugby champions have been in fine league form though and will be confident with home advantage.

Pool 4 – Munster v Leicester Tigers

In one of the tightest pools in the European Champions Cup, Leicester Tigers and Munster are certainly no strangers.

This is the third year running they’ve been drawn against each other and they head into the weekend level on six points.

Racing 92 are only a single point behind though with Castres on three – this pool has a long way to go.

Pool 5 – RC Toulon v Bath Rugby

Bath Rugby’s good form has been carried into Europe so far, this year with back-to-back wins over PRO14 champions Scarlets and Benetton Rugby in the opening two rounds.

They travel to face three-time champions Toulon this weekend in their stiffest test yet – both teams enter Round 3 with unbeaten records.

The outcome of their head-to-head in Rounds 3 and 4 could prove decisive.

CHALLENGE CUP

Pool 1 – Newcastle Falcons v Bordeaux

The most intriguing match perhaps comes from Pool 1 where Newcastle Falcons host Bordeaux at Kingston Park.

Newcastle are the only Aviva Premiership Rugby side in charge of their pool and they know a victory against Bordeaux will see them put one foot in the next round.

The Falcons have won both of their matches so far, while Bordeaux and Dragons sitting just three points behind. The Dragons face Enisei-STM on Friday night.

Pool 2 – Sale Sharks v Cardiff Blues

With one draw and one defeat in Pool 2 so far, Sale Sharks need a victory to inject their European campaign with a timely boost.

The Sharks sit third in their pool and host familiar rivals Cardiff Blues – who sit top with a 100 per cent winning record.

With James O’Connor improving every week and Marland Yarde now finding his feet, Sale’s backline is ready to fizz and the AJ Bell will be rocking when the Blues arrive on Saturday afternoon.

Pool 3 – Zebre v Gloucester Rugby

Gloucester Rugby’s European charge got off to a miserable start when they lost 27-21 in Pau but since then they have become the in-form team in Aviva Premiership Rugby.

The Cherry & Whites have won five in a row in all competitions and travel to Italy for a bruising contest with Zebre.

The Italian side are enjoying a more productive campaign then they did a year ago and will severely test Gloucester up front.

But on the back of a convincing 39-15 win against London Irish, Gloucester will be confident of victory.

Pool 4 – Edinburgh Rugby v London Irish

London Irish’s domestic struggles have not quite carried over into the Challenge Cup and victory against Edinburgh Rugby would put them in a strong position in Pool 4.

Irish have one win and one defeat from their two European matches so far and are level on points with Russian side Krasny Yar – while Edinburgh have a 100 per cent winning record.

Irish’s performances have gradually improved even if results have not gone their way and they face a side who have just travelled to South Africa and back in the PRO14.

Pool 5 – Worcester Warriors v Oyonnax

With two wins from their last three games, the outlook is far brighter for Worcester Warriors as they head into this clash with Oyonnax.

Gary Gold’s side are second in their pool, behind only PRO14 side Connacht and one point ahead of Brive – who they beat 30-20.

With Oyonnax winless so far, Worcester will be confident of victory despite losing 18-14 at home to Sale Sharks last weekend.

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