European Rugby Challenge Cup: Quarter-Finals preview


We preview this weekend's European Rugby Challenge Cup quarter-finals. 

The European rugby season is reaching its boiling point with both the Challenge and Champions Cup quarter-finals set to take place this weekend. While the second tier battles may not get as much publicity as the first tier fixtures, there are still some cracking games in store, including a clash between Gloucester and the Cardiff Blues.

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Edinburgh v La Rochelle | Friday 31 March | Murrayfield | 21:00

To Win (80 Mins)
Edinburgh 27/20 | Draw 20/1 | La Rochelle 6/10
Edinburgh (+4.5) 9/10 | La Rochelle (-4.5) 9/10
Edinburgh take on French Top 14 leaders La Rochelle in the first of this weekend’s quarter-finals. The visitors have been in sensational form, both domestically and in Europe, winning five of their six pool stage games on the way to qualifying for the quarter-finals. Edinburgh registered an identical record and points total to this weekend’s opponents during the pool phase but managed to claim top spot in Pool 5.

While Edinburgh did impress during the pool phase, it must be remembered that they were in extremely weak group that featured a seemingly disinterested Harlequins side; an under par Stade outfit; as well as the might of Romania, Timisoara Saracens. Jokes aside, Edinburgh have yet to face a quality outfit like La Rochelle and I can see their first real test ending in defeat. Wait for the handicap to come out and fire away with confidence.

Bath Rugby v Brive | Saturday 1 April | Recreation Ground | 13:45

To Win (80 Mins)
Bath 2/11 | Draw 25/1 | Brive 4/1
Bath (-12.5) 9/10 | Brive (+12.5) 9/10
*please note that these are forecast handicaps. The correct handicaps will be added upon release.

We have an Anglo-French affair in store this Saturday with Todd Blackadder’s Bath taking on Brive. The hosts have struggled for results of late but they will have their English internationals back, which is a massive plus for them. Brive, on the other hand, have enjoyed a marvellous March winning three of their four domestic fixtures, with their only defeat coming against La Rochelle.

Despite Brive coming into this one off the back of some impressive results, I just can’t see them getting the win here as French teams tend to struggle in England. My money is on Bath winning by 14 points or more!

Gloucester Rugby v Cardiff Blues | Saturday 1 April | Kingsholm Stadium | 21:05

To Win (80 Mins)
Gloucester 3/10 | Draw 22/1 | Cardiff 51/20
Gloucester (-10.5) 9/10 | Cardiff (+10.5) 9/10
*please note that these are forecast handicaps. The correct handicaps will be added upon release.

This is going to be a tough test for Gloucester, who are without talismanic scrum-half, Greig Laidlaw. The Scottish international’s ability to kick from range and clear from the base will be sorely missed this Saturday. Cardiff come into this off the back of some impressive Pro 12 victories. The Blues have beaten both Munster and Edinburgh over the past fortnight and will be on a massive high heading into this one.

This is probably the toughest game of the lot to call. As such, I won’t be having a substantial strike on it. It is televised, however, so I’ll throw R30 on the away side and enjoy the spectacle. 

Osprey v Stade Francais | Saturday 1 April | Principality Stadium | 18:45

To Win 80 Mins)
Ospreys 2/9 | Draw 24/1 | Stade 32/10
Ospreys (-11.5) 9/10 | Stade (+11.5) 9/10

*please note that these are forecast handicaps. The correct handicaps will be added upon release.

Okay, so the with the drama of the proposed merger with Racing Metro behind them, Stade have finally been able to focus on actual rugby again. They have picked up some decent results over the past few weeks, beating both Toulon and Bordeaux. It must be noted, though, that Stade haven’t won away from home since mid-January, and the victory came against minnows Timisoara Saracens.

I’m not going to go any further than I have as Ospreys' immaculate home record has already swayed my decision. I will be having my biggest strike of the round on the Ospreys to win this one. 

Written by Darry Worthington for!

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