The Challenge Cup gets underway this evening, with marginally more interest than last year given that the winners will now qualify for the Champions Cup. At this stage it remains to be seen how much focus it will get from each team, particularly the French, but there are one or two interesting fixtures to look forward to.
Here are my Superbru picks for Round 1 – click here to join our league and take me on.
Pau v Gloucester
A few decent players in the Pau side, such as Colin Slade at 10 and Frank Halai on the wing, whilst Gloucester has picked a largely second string team. Pau by 6.
Enisei-STM v Bordeaux
French teams hate any away game, and they must be dreading a trip to Siberia! Let’s go with the home side for that reason. Enisei-STM by 2.
Cardiff v Lyon
The French side is actually leading the Top 14, with a remarkable three away wins to their name. I suspect they’ll be prioritising the league over this tournament, and so I think Cardiff will win this one. Cardiff by 8.
Agen v Zebre
Agen are 3rd from bottom in the Top 14 with only one win so far, but they should still beat Zebre at home. Agen by 16.
Sale Sharks v Toulouse
The French heavyweights of Europe find themselves in the second-string tournament this year, and are bringing a half-decent side to Salford. Still, it’s hard to pick a French team to win away from home. Sale by 2.
Krasny Yar Krasnoyarsk v Stade Francais
I should pick Krasny Yar Krasnoyarsk (who?) given my justification above about French teams travelling to Siberia, but I’ve never heard of them and Stade used to be decent. Stade Francais by 38.
Newcastle v Dragons
No team sheets for this one yet, but this ought to be a home win for the Falcons. Newcastle by 13.
London Irish v Edinburgh
I’d definitely like to see the lineups for this one, but I’m leaning towards the home side at this stage. London Irish by 2.
Worcester v Brive
Bottom of the Premiership meets bottom of the Top 14 in this tantalising Anglo-French showdown. I never pick a draw, but let’s go for it. Draw.
Oyonnax v Connacht
Leaning towards the French team here, for anyone that has got this far. Oyonnax by 2.
Follow Hutch on Twitter: @Hutch_James
Photo by: Patrick Khachfe / Onside Images