Welcome to the european rugby challenge cup or the Lottery Cup as I like to think of it. That’s from a picking point of view as you don’t really know how serious teams are going to take it. Are domestic matters more important either from a playoffs or relegation point of view? How many players will be rested in these weekends? With that uncertainty good luck with your picks.
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Enisei-STM v Worcester Warriors – Worcester Warriors by 5
The last time Worcester traveled to face Enisei the result was a 19-12 loss. That was back in 2016 in Enisei’s second season in the Challenge Cup. I think that since then teams have got better at travelling over to Russia and playing in the cold.
Talking about the cold, Enisei will be playing their first 3 games at home to avoid as much of the brutal Russian winter as possible.
Agen v Edinburgh – Edinburgh by 3
The French sides in particular don’t see this competition as a priority and they’ll field some really weak sides. However at home they will often want to put in a good performance for their fans. With that in mind and my often comments about Edinburgh being poor away from home, it is probably a surprise that I’m going for them. I just think that they can and will take this competition much more seriously than Agen and so are in with a good shout of victory.
Stade Francais v Brive – Stade Francais by 7
Stade are having a shocking season and are sat bottom of the Top14. This competition will be seen as nothing more than a distraction. However it’s not that different for Brive who are also at the wrong end of the Top14 table. I expect that these 2 sides will split their matches with both sides winning at home.
Bayonne v Toulon – Bayonne by 7
Bayonne and Toulon will also be concentrating on the Top14 but to avoid relegation. These sides sit 4th and 5th in the table and will be thinking more about playoffs at the moment (even if I think Bayonne will slip down the table). Again two sides that see this as a distraction splitting the results with home wins.
Calvisano v Cardiff Blues – Cardiff Blues by 40
These two sides met in the 2015-2016 edition of this tournament. Then Cardiff won 9-50 away and backed that up with a 74-6 home win. Cardiff are having a poor season but this should be a much needed moral boosting win.
Leicester Tigers v Pau – Leicester Tigers by 10
Tigers sit last in the Premiership and so it might seem strange to predict a two score win against 3rd in the Top14. I just think that we’ll be seeing a third string team getting on to the plane for the trip over. Tigers really have two choices. Throw this competition to concentrate on the Premiership or use it to find some form. Only time will tell which way they go.
Dragons v Castres – Castres by 3
I know what I have been saying about French teams and how they will approach this competition. However I’ve also read that Ryan is concentrating on the Pro14 so expect weak Dragons sides. Even strong Dragons sides aren’t that good so what’s a weak one going to be like?
Bristol v Zebre Rugby Club – Bristol by 20
There are two teams that might see this competition as a real opportunity and Bristol are one of those. They have a good squad as top of the Premiership shows and this European silverware would be good for a side that’s only recently climbed out of the Championship. They aren’t going to jeopardise their Premiership position but maybe able to fight on two fronts at least initially.
Bordeaux Begles v Wasps – Bordeaux Begles by 10
Bordeaux will put out at decent side at home, being second in the Top14 shows that a decent side is a very good one. Wasps on the other hand are a shadow of their former selves as second from bottom in the Premiership shows. This is a home win all the way.
Scarlets v London Irish – Scarlets by 10
Scarlets are the other side that I think could give this competition a real shot. They are going well in the Pro14 and their new coaching team might want to keep that form going for as long as possible. Also I can’t see the other teams in this group really giving it a go. Expect Welsh participation deep into the competition.
Last year I came 338th out of 5,927 or in the top 6% on SuperBru Predictition competition which isn’t bad for a lottery competition like the Challenge Cup.
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