We finish our look at players to watch out for in this season’s European Rugby Challenge Cup with five back-row forwards from five different nations.
Pool 1: Mikheil Gachechiladze (Enisei-STM)
Gachechiladze was a veritable tackling machine for Enisei-STM in the Challenge Cup last season, pulling down 128 opponents in just six matches – an incredible 39 more than the next best tackler.
Furthermore, the 28-year-old flanker missed only eight tackles in the competition and so has to be our pick for Pool 1, where he is bound to get more practice against the likes of Castres Olympique, Worcester Warriors and Dragons.
Pool 2: Sergio Parisse (RC Toulon)
Another big-name signing for Toulon, who swooped for the Italy No.8 after it became clear his time at Stade Français Paris was up.
The 35-year-old has been outstanding for club and country for many years, winning an amazing 142 caps for Italy and playing 59 times in European competition for the Parisian side, including in the 2017 Challenge Cup final, where he captained them to a 25-17 victory over Gloucester Rugby at BT Murrayfield.
Pool 3: Viliame Mata (Edinburgh Rugby)
The Fijian No.8 was nominated for the 2019 EPCR European Player of the Year award after dazzling Heineken Champions Cup crowds with his scintillating handling skills and barnstorming runs to win two man-of-the-match awards.
The 27-year-old, who won an Olympic sevens gold medal at the 2016 Rio Games, headed the carries table with 141 from seven matches, as well as featuring in the top six for metres made (478) and offloads (12).
Pool 4: Nathan Hughes (Bristol Bears)
Hughes is another England international forward to join Bristol’s Challenge Cup bid as they attempt to progress at least one step further than last season’s quarter-finals.
The No.8 with 22 caps has been a significant player in Wasps’ Champions Cup challenge in the past five seasons, scoring 10 tries in 26 games.
Pool 5: Josh Navidi (Cardiff Blues)
The 28-year-old flanker is easily recognisable with his dreadlocks and he is already a Challenge Cup winner, having helped Cardiff to their 2018 success.
His dynamic displays at the breakdown and around the field have earned him 21 caps for Wales, including five in last season’s Six Nations Grand Slam, plus 37 European appearances for the Blues.