European Challenge Cup: Toulouse v Lyon Preview

The first of the Round 3 Challenge Cup fixtures see Toulouse and Lyon square off in a French Derby on Thursday the 7th of December.

The international season may have come to a close last week, but there's still plenty of oval ball action for rugby fans to sink into with the Cape Town leg of the HSBC Sevens Series and Round 3 and 4 of the European Challenge and Champions Cups set to provide hours of entertainment this festive season.

The Challenge Cup will return this coming Thursday evening with a tasty affair between domestic foes Toulouse and Lyon. The hosts for this encounter currently sit a point off their domestic counterparts, who are in second place in Pool 2. A win for either side would massively enhance their chances of advancing from what is set to be one of the most hotly contested Challenge Cup Pools this season.

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Toulouse v Lyon | Thursday 7 December | Stade Ernst Wallon | 21:45

To Win (80 Mins)
Toulouse 2/9 | Draw 25/1 | Lyon 33/10
Toulouse 17/20 (-10.5) | Lyon 17/20 (+10.5)

Ugo Mola's men are yet to win a Challenge Cup game this term, drawing 20-20 with Sale in the opening round and then going down by two points to current Pool 2 leaders, the Cardiff Blues, in the second round. The former result was actually a rather decent one for the French outfit as they managed to secure two points from what was a tricky away fixture. The same cannot be said about their second result, however, as you really need to win your home games when you are contesting such an evenly matched group.

Toulouse's domestic form has been slightly more assured than their European form with Mola's men winning seven out of their 12 Top 14 fixtures. They come into Thursday night's game off the back of a 31-41 Top 14 home defeat to Castres, which would've dented their confidence. But, while their psyche took a knock last week, they will take some confidence from their result the week prior to that which saw them beat Lyon 9-17.

Lyon's fairytale start to the Top 14 has turned into something of a nightmare as they have now lost their last four domestic games in succession. Coach, ‎Matthieu Lazerges, will be hoping that the change of competition will help his side escape this massive slump.

Lazerges' men have been in decent knick in Europe bouncing back from their 29-19 away loss to Cardiff by beating Sale 27-24 in France. The only real concern for the Frenchman, stemming from those two performances, is his side's rather porous defensive line.

Lyon have conceded 53 points from their first two fixtures at an average of 26.5 points per game. That's  too many points to be giving away if you want to win games, especially away from home. Lyon will need to up their defensive game tenfold if they are to take anything away from this fixture.

Verdict: Lyon 33/10
I'm expecting a more motivated performance from Lyon after they were annihilated by Toulon in the Top 14 last week. I think the change of tournament will free the shackles somewhat and allow this Lyon side to play with the freedom that they so desperately need in order to express themselves.

It's a big risk and I certainly won't be wagering the house on it, but a small strike on the away win could prove rather profitable. 

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