Hollywoodbets Sports Blog: European Rugby: Challenge Cup Preview

European Rugby: Challenge Cup Preview

Jake Heenan of Bristol powers over Joe Marchant of Harlequins to score a try

Darry Worthington runs the rule over the 2019/20 European Rugby Challenge Cup and gives his thoughts on who's worth backing.

The European Rugby Challenge Cup will get underway on Friday the 15th of November. This year's tournament is far less glamorous than last year's with only a handful of big guns appearing in the 'Europa League' of rugby.

Image Copyright - Steve Haag Sports

To Win Tournament Outright

Contenders
Toulon 7/2
Wasps 11/2
Scarlets 13/2
Edinburgh 15/2
Stade 9/1
Castres 10/1
Cardiff Blues 12/1


Castres
Pool Opponents:  Scarlets, Ensei, and Worcester Warriors

The French club have been drawn in a rather tough-looking pool which features in-form PRO14, the Scarlets, and a talented Worcester Warriors outfit.

Castres have had a rather poor start to their domestic season only winning four of their opening nine fixtures. They do possess a solid squad, however, and they may look to target a European trophy as it's a more realistic goal than a Top 14 title.

Castres had a tough time of it in Europe last season, as they bombed out of the Champions Cup with only three wins from their six pool phase fixtures. The drop to the second tier will suit them, however, as they avoid Europe's glamour clubs.

Filipo Nakosi
Filipo Nakosi is tipped to set the Challenge Cup alight  - Image Copyright - Steve Haag Sport

Key Player: Filipo Nakosi
The Fijian flyer transferred from Toulon in the off-season and will be looking for a second lease on life as he struggled for game time at his former club.

He's blessed with a lot of gas and a mean step. Expect him to bag a host of five-pointers for Castres in the Challenge Cup.

Toulon
Pool Opponents: Scarlets, London Irish and Bayonne

The former giants of Europe find themselves in the second tier this term. They have struggled both domestically and on the European stage over the past few years and the Challenge Cup offers up an ideal opportunity to appease the fans with a trophy.

Toulon have endured a sluggish start to their domestic campaign only winning four of their opening nine games. They have proved a tough nut to crack on home soil, however, which bodes well for their European aspirations.

While Toulon have been handed a relatively kind pool, they can ill-afford to take any of their fixtures lightly as they are facing some serious scrappers.

Eben Etzebeth runs at England's defence in the RWC final.
Eben Etzebeth will add some much-needed muscle to the Toulon pack this season. Image Copyright - Fotosport/David Gibson.

Key Player: Eben Etzebeth
Toulon have made a number of big-name signings but none are bigger than the South African lock. He had a solid World Cup and Toulon will hope he will shore up their lineout and add some extra physicality around the park.

Edinburgh
Pool Opponents: Agen, Bordeaux and Wasps

PRO14 outfit Edinburgh have been handed a tough old pool assignment but should they come through it, they will be well-primed for a title tilt.

They've enjoyed a respectable start to the PRO14 campaign and have three wins from their first five fixtures. Like Toulon, they have been good on their own patch this term.

They enjoyed a solid Champions Cup campaign last season winning all six of their pool phase fixtures before succumbing to Munster in the quarter-finals.

Blair Kinghorn in action for Edinburgh
Will Blair Kinghorn come of age in this season's Challenge Cup? Image Copyright - Steve Haag Sport.

Key Player: Blair Kinghorn
The fullback has long since been in the shadow of Stuart Hogg but with Hogg having left the PRO14 to join the Exeter Chiefs, Kinghorn may have a chance of usurping him to the Scottish fullback jersey.

Kinghorn is a solid fullback with a good boot on him. He has reigned in his running game over the past few seasons which is rather disappointing as he is great to watch when the shackles are off.

Dark Horse

Bristol Bears
Pool Opponents: Brive, Stade, and Zebre

The Bears are really good rugby side. They have come to grips with the competitive nature of the Gallagher Premiership and have bagged two wins from their first three domestic fixtures.

They are a real threat on their own patch as they proved last season where they turned over some big names on their way to reaching the quarter-finals.

Bristol should have a rather easy time of it during the pool phase as they have been grouped alongside two woeful sides in the form of Stade and Zebre. And while Brive could give them a bit of a run, I can still see Bristol topping this pool at a canter.

Charles Piutau of the Bristol Bears runs at the Harlequins defence.
Charles Piutau will be key in Bristol's hopes of winning the Challenge Cup - Image Copyright - Frozen in Motion Ltd.  

Key Player: Charles Piutau
The one-cap All Black is an absolute excitement machine. He's also a vastly experienced player and knows how these European competitions operate. He'll be a vital cog for a Bristol side looking to make a statement.

Verdict: Bristol
I really do believe it will be the season of the Bear. Bristol have a marvellous side who are more than capable of going all the way in this competition.

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