Challenge Cup: London Irish v Stade Francais Preview

Anglo-French rivalries will be at an all-time high this weekend with London Irish taking of Stade Francais on Saturday the 16th of December.

It will be 'do or die time' for Pool 4 participants, London Irish and Stade Francais' this Saturday as they lock horns in a vital Challenge Cup clash. Both sides are in desperate need of a win to keep their hopes of advancing to the quarter-finals of the competition alive. With so much on the line, this game could well prove to be a classic encounter.

London Irish v Stade Francais | Saturday 16 December | Majedski Stadium | 16:00

To Win (80 Mins)
Irish 21/20 | Draw 20/1 | Stade 8/10

London Irish
The 'Exiles' currently sit in third spot on the Pool 4 standings, some ten points off pool-toppers Edinburgh and two points off Stade. With Edinburgh so many points above the Londoners, this reverse fixture with Stade is crucial to Irish's chances of getting through to the quarter-finals as one of the best-placed runners-up berths. A win here would see them move to nine points, while a bonus point victory would see them move to ten. The Londoners finish off their pool phase campaign with back-to-back games against Russian side, Krasny Yar, and they could well take the full ten-point haul from those two fixtures, which should see them end the pool phase as one of the best-placed runners-up.

The 'Exiles' were sensational during the reverse affair with Stade running out 7-44 victors in Paris. That result will still be fresh in their minds when they take to the Madjeski Stadium pitch this Saturday. If they play with the same sort of vim and vigour in this encounter, they should be able to get the job done against an improved but still far from vintage Stade outfit.

Stade Francais
The defending Challenge Cup champions have a serious mountain to climb if they are to make it through to the next stage of the competition. Unlike their opponents for this weekend, Stade have a horrid end to the pool phase to negotiate with Saturday's away date with London Irish being followed by back-to-back games against pool pace-setters, Edinburgh. As such, a loss to the 'Exiles' this Saturday would all but put an end to Stade's chances of defending their title.

French teams tend to perform when the pressure is on, however, and Stade certainly know how to win in England as their run to last season's final attests to. They will need to show a lot more grit on defence than they have in their previous Challenge Cup fixtures if they are to get one over what will be a fired up Irish outfit this Saturday, however.

Verdict: London Irish 21/20
Stade have been absolutely dreadful this term with their only victory in the tournament coming at home to Kransy last week. I simply cannot see them upsetting the applecart against a well-drilled an disciplined Irish outfit.

Written by Darry Worthington for

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