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Connachts European Exploits
Connacht take on Bernard Jackmans Grenoble in the Challenge cup. Both Jackman and Grenoble Team manager Andrew Farley were at Connacht when these clubs last met in the quarterfinals. While a home semi-final in the Pro12 may be the main aim at this stage in the season, the Challenge cup will not simply be a bonus. Connacht have a real chance here, and having all but secured Champions Cup rugby next season, this is an opportunity to increase their European pedigree. Grenoble currently sit 8th in the Top 14. They are in decent form having won 3 in a row, coming from behind to beat Oyonnax last weekend. The winner here travels to either Harlequins or London Irish.
The other Pro12 team in action are Newport Gwent Dragons, they are away to last seasons champions Gloucester. The winner of that tie face either Sale Sharks or Montpellier. Cardiff and Leinster are the only two teams from outside England or France to lift the trophy, can Connacht or Dragons add to that?
The European Champions Cup still exists
Kind of completely forgot about this to be honest. No Irish sides left here but still plenty of good rugby to look forward to. Saturday sees Wasps take on Exeter, and Saracens take on Northampton. I tipped Saracens at the start of the season and I have not seen anything to change my mind.
Sunday we’ll see Leicester Tigers face Top 14 champions (forgot that as well) Stade Francais in the only game that feels like a European game, rather than a league game. Then later Reigning European Champions Toulon are away to Racing 92. I can see Racing overcoming Toulon with Leicester getting to better of Stade.
Inter-Pros and Cons
Leinster completed did the double over Munster for the first time in 3 seasons, and Munster are in trouble. They had the opportunity to go for a draw, but, well... difficult to make jokes about Englands world cup campaign now that they are Grandslam winners but you see where I’m going. They still would have had time for another attack had they taken the 3, and Leinster were down to 14. Even if they had of taken just the 1 extra point from the game, that would have given them a 2 point gap over Edinburgh, who are currently within touching distance of the Champions Cup spot themselves. Was it the right call to bring Johnny Holland off for Keatley? Plenty of talking points from a refereeing point of view, surely Munster were lucky not to see yellow a few more times. Sexton was terrific on the day, who else stood out for you?
Ulster got a much needed win to stay in touch with Glasgow. It could have been more for them in all honesty, but they remain 1 point behind the Warriors, who have a game in hand against Zebre, so that gap could easily turn to 6. There is a shining light, Scarlets went down to Cardiff which now makes them very reachable.
Are we going to have 4 provinces in the Champions Cup? And how many will make the play-offs, let us know your views here: Post to Post on MarsFM.
This month will see the beginning of the first professional North American Rugby Union competition. 6 teams play ten games, with a final championship game at the end. It’s a great example of rugby growing, even more so, with Canadian teams set to join next year. Worth noting that there is a limit of 5 non-North American player for each team (they don’t necessarily have to be from the US). Given how poor the States were in the World Cup this couldn’t come soon enough. Good to see the game going global, sure at this rate we’ll be calling for the States to be included in the Six Nations! (No but seriously, let Georgia in already, I mean come on like).
And anything else going on in the World of Rugby. Let us know your opinions on everything and tune in Wednesday at 12 on MarsFM.ie.
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Ciarán Duffy (@TheVoiceDepth) is a Leinster supporter who would watch any game of rugby while undoubtedly taking it too seriously. He enjoys over analysing and taking a pessimistic look at the bright side while talking about Irish, European, and World Rugby issues on and off the field.