The second half of the EPCR Challenge Cup pool stage gets underway this weekend with Round 3, and it’s set to make for gripping viewing as teams vie for the qualification spots.
All teams remain in the hunt for a crucial top-six finish in their respective pools, with the added carrot of home advantage in the knockout stage also on offer to the highest-ranked sides.
On Friday at 20:00 (All UK & Irish time), Scarlets will look to cement their position at the summit of Pool B as they host Toyota Cheetahs – leading points-scorer Sam Costelow will be looking to add to his haul of 29 so far for the Welsh region.
Also at 20:00, Dragons RFC will look to add to their four points in Pool B as they travel to Section Paloise. Though the Newport-based side are yet to taste victory so far, fly-half Sam Davies has helped them to a bonus-point draw and has 25 points to his name, the second highest in the competition.
At 13:00 on Saturday, Emirates Lions head to Stade Français Paris in what is set to be a fascinating encounter after the South African outfit triumphed in a bruising Round 2 clash between the sides in Johannesburg.
Nadir Megdoud has been TEARING it UP for @SFParisRugby so far 🔥
💗 Most defenders beaten
💗 Most offloads
💗 Mountain of metres#ChallengeCupRugby pic.twitter.com/ti8lS9RK8q
— EPCR Challenge Cup (@ChallengeCup_) January 2, 2023
Emirates Lions are two points adrift of Scarlets in Pool B and have try threats in their midst in the form of wings Edwill van der Merwe and Quan Horn, both of whom have crossed twice in two games.
However, Stade Français boast one of the EPCR Challenge Cup’s leading attackers in wing Nadir Megdoud.
In another 13:00 contest, Benetton Rugby, third in Pool B, will aim to stay in touch with the leaders as they welcome winless Aviron Bayonnais.
At 15:15, Bath Rugby will need a huge performance against EPCR heavyweights RC Toulon at The Recreation Ground, with the Gallagher Premiership outfit without a win so far in Pool A.
Bath will need a spark from centre Ollie Lawrence, with Toulon counterpart Maëlan Rabut having reigned supreme in the Round 2 clash between the teams as he dotted down in a convincing win.
At 17:30, Connacht Rugby entertain CA Brive with hopes of making it three wins from three in Pool A – wing Diarmuid Kilgallen has been a catalyst for the Irish province’s success so far, crossing in each of their victories.
Two intriguing 20:00 Pool A games see Bristol Bears head to Zebre Parma and Glasgow Warriors travel to USAP, with both away sides having won the reverse fixtures in Round 2 to maintain their 100% records.
🏆 2021/22 @LeLOURugby
🏆 2022/23 ⁇#ThrowbackThursday to last year's trophy lift, but who will take the crown in Dublin? 👀#ChallengeCupRugby pic.twitter.com/jayyJPRM9K
— EPCR Challenge Cup (@ChallengeCup_) December 22, 2022
Centre Semi Radradra has produced some of his characteristic magic so far for Bristol, with Huw Jones a leading light in midfield for Glasgow, crossing in each of their two victories.
On Sunday, top plays bottom in Pool A as Cardiff Rugby welcome Newcastle Falcons to Cardiff Arms Park at 13:00.
Newcastle will need to keep Cardiff wing Josh Adams quiet if they are to secure a first win of their campaign – the British & Irish Lion has scored three tries so far, the joint-most in the competition.
Falcons back-row forward Tom Marshall, one of the EPCR Challenge Cup’s top defenders, is set for another busy afternoon.