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London Irish welcome Castres Olympique in the EPCR Challenge Cup Round of 16 on Friday hoping to build on last season’s performance at the same stage of the competition..
Irish have won only one of their last six Challenge Cup knockout encounters – but that victory came in their most recent game at this stage, last season against Cardiff Rugby (41-35).
The Gallagher Premiership side reached the Round of 16 by finishing second in EPCR Challenge Cup Pool C, while Castres were demoted from the Heineken Champions Cup after ending up 11th in Pool B.
The match kicks off at 17:30 (UK & Irish time) at the Brentford Community Stadium and is available to stream on epcrugby.tv.
TEAM NEWS 🚨
4️⃣ fiery fixtures under the Friday night lights, who are you pumped to see in action? 🤩#ChallengeCupRugby Ro16 line-ups ➡️ https://t.co/IxwCvdW3CU pic.twitter.com/cNScL34pfK
— EPCR Challenge Cup (@ChallengeCup_) April 14, 2022
Other key facts:
- London Irish and Castres have faced each other once previously in the EPCR Challenge Cup, in the semi-final in 1999/2000, which was won by the French side (40-30).
- Castres have lost six of their nine away games against Premiership clubs in the EPCR Challenge Cup (W3). However, they won their most recent such fixture, in January 2020 against Worcester Warriors (33-27).
- London Irish have won their last three home games in the EPCR Challenge Cup, their best run at home in the competition since winning seven in a row between 2012/13 and 2014/15.
- Castres have lost their last two games in the EPCR Challenge Cup. Only once have they lost more consecutive games in the competition – a run of three defeats between 2000 and 2002.
- London Irish have scored 10 tries following a lineout in the EPCR Challenge Cup this season. Only Gloucester (13) have scored more in that fashion.
- London Irish have averaged eight dominant tackles per game in the EPCR Challenge Cup this season, more than any other team.
- Castres averaged the fewest 22 entries of any side in this season’s Heineken Champions Cup (4.5). However, only Leinster (3.3) have averaged more points per 22 entry than them in Europe’s top flight this season (3.1).
- Castres were one of just five teams not to be shown a card of any colour in the pool stage of this season’s Heineken Champions Cup, although they conceded 55 penalties – more than any other side.
- London Irish duo Juan Martin Gonzalez and Adam Coleman are two of the five players to have made a competition-high four dominant tackles in the EPCR Challenge Cup this season, while Castres’ Filipo Nakosi made five dominant tackles in the Heineken Champions Cup pool stage, the joint most of any player (also Zander Fagerson).
London Irish coach Declan Kidney: “Over the last 48 hours we have been able to focus in on what Castres do, particularly how they do what they do; their set-piece, challenging every scrum along with a strong maul to create a good pressure style of game.”
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London Irish powered into the EPCR Challenge Cup quarter-finals after defeating Castres Olympique 64-27 in an extraordinary contest at Brentford Community Stadium on Friday.
Irish looked supremely comfortable in racking up a 40-3 half-time lead, but for much of the second period Castres threatened an incredible comeback.
The French side ran in 24 unanswered points before Theo Chabouni’s 70th-minute yellow card for a deliberate knock-on effectively ended their hopes in an immensely entertaining contest.
Irish then reasserted themselves in emphatic fashion with four further tries to end the Round of 16 clash on a real high note.
Earlier, hooker Agustin Creevy led the way for Irish with two first-half tries, while Curtis Rona, Tom Pearson, Juan Martin Gonzalez and Kyle Rowe also crossed.
Huge win for @LondonIrish 👏
The home side put on a real show in front of their home support 🙌
Extended #ChallengeCupRugby highlights ➡️ https://t.co/UdeDbVxITK pic.twitter.com/CY9day8LuQ
— EPCR Challenge Cup (@ChallengeCup_) April 15, 2022
With Paddy Jackson kicking five conversions and Ben Botica replying with a solitary penalty, it looked like the second half would be a formality for Irish.
However, tries from Rory Kockott, Chabouni and Santiago Arata Perrone, all converted by Botica, gave Castres a glimmer of hope.
Botica kicked a penalty on 65 minutes to bring his side within two converted tries, but the hosts were not to be denied.
Matt Rogerson’s try settled any home nerves before Will Joseph, Matt Cornish and Benhard Janse van Rensburg all went over late on, Jackson adding two more conversions.
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