After looking at some exciting pre-season match-ups between 2018/19 Heineken Champions Cup teams last week, we turn our attention this week to four friendlies involving European Rugby Challenge Cup sides who have never met in European competition before.
Benetton Rugby v Worcester Warriors
Friday’s match at the Stadio di Monigo will be an interesting test, especially for Benetton Rugby, as the Italian club have English opposition in Pool 5 in 2018/19 in Harlequins, alongside French pair Agen and Grenoble.
Meanwhile, Worcester Warriors take on Welsh region Ospreys and French duo Pau and Stade Français Paris in Pool 2.
Grenoble v Zebre Rugby
Grenoble will be glad of this home game on August 17, as they have been drawn against Italian opposition in Benetton Rugby in Pool 5 on their return to the Challenge Cup after a one-year absence.
Zebre, meanwhile, take on English side Bristol Bears, French club La Rochelle and Russian outfit Enisei-STM in Pool 4.
Dragons v Northampton Saints
Although Dragons and Northampton Saints are unfamiliar foes in European competition at present, that will change in 2018/19 because they have been grouped together in Pool 1 with French team ASM Clermont Auvergne and Romanian club Timisoara Saracens.
Therefore, this friendly tussle between two-time winners Northampton Saints, back in the Challenge Cup after a four-year gap, and the Welsh region at Rodney Parade, Newport, on August 17 will be ideal preparation for more serious combat later in the season.
Bristol Bears v Connacht Rugby
The last week of friendlies before domestic competition begins sees Bristol Bears host Connacht Rugby at Ashton Gate Stadium on August 24.
Like Grenoble, Bristol Bears are back in the Challenge Cup after missing out last year, so the Irish province, regular entrants in the competition, will provide perfect opposition for the English club’s Pool 4 adventure. Connacht, meanwhile, are in Pool 3 with Bordeaux-Bègles, Perpignan and Sale Sharks.