Last Saturday’s Six Nations clash between England and Wales offered a teaser of what’s to come in the EPCR Challenge Cup when Cardiff Rugby host Sale Sharks in the Round of 16 on April 1.
The six Cardiff players who featured in their country’s 20-10 loss at the Principality Stadium will be especially eager to put the record straight, although there was only one Sale representative in the England squad.
Four Cardiff players – No.8 Taulupe Faletau, scrum-half Tomos Williams, centre Mason Grady and wing Josh Adams were in Wales’ starting XV – while props Rhys Carré and Dillon Lewis were introduced off the bench in the second half.
Sale flanker Ben Curry also came on after the break, for England, as he got an early taste of some of the challenges Cardiff will pose in the EPCR Challenge Cup.
Get your diaries out 📢
Which #ChallengeCupRugby Round of 16 thriller will you be watching? 🤩 pic.twitter.com/qWfx6D2Tou
— EPCR Challenge Cup (@ChallengeCup_) January 26, 2023
The knockout stage encounter will see an English outfit visit Cardiff again, but this time with Sale heading to Cardiff Ams Park.
There will be a distinct Anglo-Welsh flavour to the contest as those involved in Saturday’s Six Nations side return to join further international talents at the respective clubs.
Fly-half Rhys Priestland, the leading points-scorer in this season’s EPCR Challenge Cup, will be a key figure for Cardiff, as might be his equally accomplished Sale counterpart, George Ford, who could appear in the competition for the first time this campaign after recovering from injury.
Adams, a British & Irish Lion and 47-time Wales international, will be a try threat for Cardiff along with Owen Lane, who has also been capped by the national side. They crossed the whitewash a combined seven times in the EPCR Challenge Cup pool stage.
🏴 Cap incoming…
We’ve seen Mason Grady’s speed in #ChallengeCup action for @Cardiff_Rugby, but are the English ready to face his pace?#ChallengeCupRugby #WALvENG pic.twitter.com/Gie3Qc8TD4
— EPCR Challenge Cup (@ChallengeCup_) February 23, 2023
In a further example of the quality of the two teams’ back lines, England’s Manu Tuilagi, who like Adams is a former Lion, will likely line up at centre, while full-back Liam Williams, another Lion, is also a huge Welsh star among the Cardiff ranks.
Sale’s England scrum-half, Raffi Quirke, and Cardiff’s Welsh international No.9, Lloyd Williams, are at differing ends of the experience spectrum but could make for an intriguing scrum-half battle, with Tomos Williams also in contention for starting berth for the host club after last Saturday.
Additionally, the two packs boast Lions-capped English and Welsh internationals, with Sale hoping that flanker Tom Curry can recover from a hamstring injury in time for the Round of 16.
Tom and brother Ben may face the seasoned Josh Navidi, who is another of Cardiff’s hugely experienced Wales internationals to have represented the Lions.
Cardiff lock Seb Davies and Sale second-row Jonny Hill weren’t involved in last Saturday’s Six Nations clash but still have a wealth of international caps to their names.
Meanwhile, England and Sale prop Bevan Rodd is set to line up against Carré and Lewis in the front row as he too aims to make up for missing out on selection for last Saturday’s game.