Gallagher Premiership outfits return to Champions Cup action
The penultimate helping of Heineken Champions Cup group stage rugby gets underway this weekend, as several Gallagher Premiership Rugby clubs aim to give themselves the best chance possible of progressing.
Saracens face a crunch trip to France, Exeter Chiefs and Gloucester Rugby approach uphill battles in Pool 2, while Newcastle Falcons are also holding out hope as they travel to Montpellier.
With plenty of fascinating storylines as European action returns, here is a look forward to what all seven Gallagher Premiership Rugby sides involved can expect from Round 5 of the Champions Cup.
Saracens out in front
Four wins from four sees reigning Premiership Rugby champions – and 2017 Champions Cup winners – Saracens at the summit of Pool 3.
The Londoners are in great shape to reach the quarter-finals, but with a four-point buffer over second-place Glasgow Warriors, Saracens will be keen to seal top spot as they prepare for a trip to France on Sunday.
🗣️”We set ourselves high standards and we are not quite there this season and there is still more to come.”@SanjayWills on Saracens, Wales and his English teammates’ ‘terrible banter’! ⚫🔴
— Saracens Rugby Club (@Saracens) January 11, 2019
Lyon are their opponents, with Mark McCall’s men hoping for a repeat of their 29-10 triumph when the sides met at Allianz Park back in Round 2.
And Saracens will have an extra incentive after suffering a 24-18 loss at Sale Sharks in Gallagher Premiership Rugby last time out – desperate to return to winning ways at the Matmut Stadium de Gerland.
Gloucester and Exeter duke it out
With Exeter and Gloucester currently third and fourth in Pool 2 respectively, it looks unlikely that both will progress.
But given the congested nature of the table – both sides are just four points off first-place Munster and one behind Castres in second – quarter-final qualification certainly remains on the cards.
— Gloucester Rugby (@gloucesterrugby) January 11, 2019
This weekend sees Gloucester welcome pace-setters Munster to Kingsholm on Friday night, where a victory would really open things up, while Exeter host Castres on Sunday.
Wins for both sides would certainly throw a spanner in the works after it had seemed as though the Gallagher Premiership Rugby representatives were all-but dead and buried just weeks ago.
Falcons swoop for knockouts
Like Exeter and Gloucester, Newcastle Falcons need a big couple of weekends if they are to make it through Pool 5.
Sitting third, they trail second-place Montpellier by three points before the sides meet on Saturday.
Toby Flood says Newcastle Falcons are travelling to Montpellier intent on neutralising the home team’s power game in Saturday’s Heineken Champions Cup clash https://t.co/jHkqa7xqp9 pic.twitter.com/k4iKNcBWIM
— Newcastle Falcons (@FalconsRugby) January 10, 2019
In what looks to be a win-or-bust scenario the Falcons will take heart from previous results, having beaten the French outfit 23-20 at Kingston Park back in October.
Struggling for form in Gallagher Premiership Rugby, this may well be the perfect respite for Falcons to reboot their season.
Bath and Wasps face off
With elimination for both of these Gallagher Premiership Rugby sides already confirmed from a tough Pool 1, each will be keen to card their first win of the groups when they go head-to-head this weekend.
The match-up signals a repeat of the classic 35-35 draw when they met at the Ricoh Arena back in Round 2, with neutrals certainly hoping that sparks fly once more at The Rec.
And after Bath dealt their opponents a 24-14 defeat in Gallagher Premiership Rugby before Christmas, Wasps will be keen to respond.
Tigers on the march
In another Pool replete with European giants, former Champions Cup winners Leicester Tigers are languishing in third, on only six points.
🎥 Kyle Eastmond looks ahead to this weekend’s #ChampionsCup fixture away to Scarlets.
— Leicester Tigers (@LeicesterTigers) January 11, 2019
But a trip to Wales to face Scarlets provides the perfect platform on which to build on their impressive 34-16 Gallagher Premiership Rugby triumph over Gloucester last weekend.
A 45-27 win over the Welsh side at Welford Road in Round 2 will also give Geordan Murphy’s men hope that they can keep the run going.