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PREVIEW: Challenge and Champions Cup resume amid French quarantine crisis

The Challenge and Champions Cup return this weekend under a cloud with French COVID quarantine restrictions possibly having an impact on games being played in France.

Telusa Veainu of Stade Francais - Champions Cup
Image Copyright - Steve Haag Sports

The Challenge and Champions Cup return this weekend under a cloud with French COVID quarantine restrictions possibly having an impact on games being played in France.

Two women looking excitedly at cellphone

The tournament will soldier on as best it can, as will our intrepid writer who takes a look at three standout fixtures from the Champions Cup and two from the Challenge Cup and gives his rapid-fire tips for the remaining fixtures.

Champions Cup

Saturday 15 January 

To Win Match
Wasps 32/10 | Draw 23/1 | Toulouse 1/4 (15:00)

We kick things off with what should be an extremely entertaining fixture as two sides who aren’t afraid to give the ball a bit of air going head-to-head.

Wasps have endured a tough start to their Champions Cup campaign losing their opener to a severely depleted Munster side 14-35 while their second match, which was scheduled to be against Toulouse was called off due to recently implemented travel restrictions, which resulted in the game being called a draw.

Toulouse have fared better in the opening round as they beat Cardiff 7-39 in Wales. This result coupled with their aforementioned cancellation sees them sitting pretty in fourth spot on the Pool B standings.

The hosts managed a massive domestic victory last weekend as they beat Gallagher Premiership leaders Leicester 16-13. The win will give them a lot of confidence headed into this one and I think they may well spring a surprise against a Toulouse team that hasn’t looked all too flash in the Top 14 recently.

To Win Match
Connacht 11/10 | Draw 18/1 | Leicester 77/100 (17:15)

We have another absolute belter next up with Irish province Connacht taking on English outfit Leicester.

The hosts haven’t played much rugby over the past month or so but they have got their year off to a flyer beating Munster 10-8 in a United Rugby Championship derby. They have also given a decent enough account of themselves in Europe so far this season beating Stade Francais 36-9 and then going down 29-23 to this weekend’s opponents in the second round.

The visitors, on the other hand, haven’t got their year off to the best of starts as they lost their first Gallagher Premiership fixture last weekend going down 16-13 to Wasps. They have been solid in Europe, however, beating the Bordeaux Begles 13-16 in France before their six-point win over Connacht

Again, I’m on the hosts here. They are a handful at home and Leicester seem to be dropping off the boil somewhat.

Sunday 16 January

To Win (80 Mins)
Leinster 1/100 | Draw 50/1 | Montpellier 13/1 (15:00)

The final Champions Cup game we’ll take a look at is between Irish heavyweights Leinster and resurgent French outfit Montpellier.

Both teams currently lie in mid-table on the Pool A standings having only played one fixture a piece with the Round 2 tie between the sides being cancelled due to French travel restrictions.

The duo experienced contrasting fortunes in the opening round with Leinster beating Bath 45-20 while Montpellier were drubbed 42-6 by the Exeter Chiefs.

While Montpellier have been resurgent on the domestic front, they still tend to struggle when travelling to foreign lands. This is why I’m all over Leinster to take this one comfortably.

Challenge Cup

Saturday 15 January

To Win Match
Irish | Draw | Edinburgh (16:15) betting tba

The first of our two Challenge Cup fixtures pits London Irish up against Edinburgh. Irish enjoyed a decent enough start winning their opener against Pau 17-33 before having their clash with CA Brive called off due to travel restrictions.

Ednburgh have also enjoyed a positive start to their European adventure beating English heavyweights Saracens 18-21. They have also been in decent touch on the domestic front beating Cardiff 34-10 this past weekend.

The Exiles have given some big-name English teams problems in Brentford this term and I can see them doing the same to the Scottish visitors here.

To Win Match
Worcester | Draw | Toulon (18:30) *betting tba

We close things off at the Sixways Stadium where Top 14 side Toulon will tackle Gallagher Premiership outfit, Worcester.

The Warriors are yet to get off the mark in the tournament having gone down 31-26 to domestic foes Newcastle before having their game against Barritz called off.

Toulon have fared better thus far beating Italian outfit Zebre 28-14 in Round 2. They have been dealing with a COVID outbreak and have not played much rugby over the past month or so.

Toulon are not great on the road and they’re also likely to be rusty. With this in mind, I forecast a big Warriors win here.

Rapid Fire Tips

Champions Cup

Harlequins win v Cardiff @17/100
Munster Win v Castres @38/100
Racing Win v Ospreys @1/9
Exeter Win v Glasgow @1/9
La Rochelle Win v Bath
Bristol Win v Stade @1/25
Ulster Win v Northampton @67/100
Bordeaux Win v Scarlets @1/12
Clermont Win v Sale @1/5

Challenge Cup

CA Brive Win v Pau
Treviso Win v Dragons
Lyon Win v Perpignan

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