There is no margin for error for Europe’s heavyweights as the Heineken Champions Cup returns with the key back-to-back fixtures which are certain to go a long way towards defining which clubs will prolong their journey on the Road to Newcastle.
Among the high-intensity Round 3 clashes, there will be a repeat of the 2004 final as Wasps entertain a resurgent Toulouse hoping for a repeat result of that memorable Twickenham decider to keep their Pool 1 hopes alive.
And just before what promises to be yet another compelling Anglo-French confrontation at the Ricoh Arena, reigning champions Leinster Rugby travel to Bath in the same pool looking to return to winning ways after their 10-match unbeaten run was abruptly ended by Toulouse in Round 2.
Stars of the global game will once again feature in the tournament recognised as The One to Win with the action accessible to fans across the world over the next two weekends on the widest range of traditional and innovative broadcast platforms since European club rugby’s inception in 1995.
Other Round 3 highlights include:
- If selected, Jamie George will make his 50th tournament appearance when Saracens take on Cardiff Blues at Allianz Park in Pool 3 on Sunday. It’s 18 seasons since the two clubs last met in the tournament when the Welsh side won both encounters.
- Leicester Tigers will face familiar opposition, but at a new venue, when they take on Racing 92 at the Paris La Défense Arena on Sunday as the clubs meet for a fourth season in a row.
- Richard Cockerill and Dean Richards were European champions together as player and coach with Leicester Tigers, but this weekend they will be in opposite corners for Edinburgh Rugby and Newcastle Falcons at BT Murrayfield with Pool 5 supremacy on the line. Falcons won both pool games en route to the quarter-finals when the clubs last met in the top flight in the 2004/05 season.
- For the second season in a row, Scarlets go into the back-to-back clashes desperate to turn around their fortunes after two opening defeats. They managed it last season in dramatic fashion before going on to reach the semi-finals, and now Ulster Rugby stand in their way with the first meeting in Llanelli on Friday evening.
- All matches will be broadcast live in the United Kingdom and Ireland on BT Sport, with both Channel 4 and Virgin Media showing Exeter Chiefs’ clash with Gloucester Rugby to free-to-air audiences from Sandy Park on Saturday.
From Galway in the west of Ireland to Sochi on the Black Sea in Russia, seven nations will host matches in Round 3 of the Challenge Cup which features a diverse range of the continent’s big-hitters as well as emerging clubs.
On the radar this weekend:
- Four clubs registered two wins in the opening rounds including former winners ASM Clermont Auvergne and Sale Sharks who are looking to strengthen their positions at the top of their respective pools with away games at Timisoara Saracens and Bordeaux-Bègles respectively.
- Worcester Warriors, who travel to Pau on Friday evening, and La Rochelle, who take on Bristol Bears at Ashton Gate on Saturday, also have winning records to preserve.
- The last time Stade Français Paris faced Ospreys, they won a quarter-final in Wales in 2017 before going on to lift the Challenge Cup trophy. The two clubs lock horns again on Saturday at Swansea’s Liberty Stadium.
- Connacht Rugby welcome Perpignan to The Sportsground looking to improve their chances of reaching the knockout stage of the tournament for the 10th Only Brive, Newcastle Falcons and Gloucester Rugby have progressed from the pool stage on 10 or more occasions.
Click HERE for Challenge Cup fixture details