Champions Cup preview: Meet the opposition
October 11, 2017 12:39 pm Conor Sharkey
Leinster Rugby’s Champions Cup campaign begins this Saturday when a star-studded Montpellier visit the RDS Arena (KO 1pm).
After that a trip to Glasgow awaits for Leo Cullen’s men on 21st October, before back-to-back games against the English champions, Exeter Chiefs, in December.
Ahead of this season’s competition, read about our three pool opponents to find out how they got on in the Champions Cup last season, who their star men are, and how they’re performing so far this season.
Exeter Chiefs made history last season when they won their first ever Premiership title to become champions of England.
Exeter won promotion to the Premiership for the first time in 2010 and have stayed there since, finishing as runners-up in 2016 and winners in 2017.
Exeter finished third in Champions Cup Pool 5 last season against Ulster, Bordeaux-Begles, and eventual Champions Cup runners-up, Clermont. They won two games from six, but claimed two try bonus points and two losing bonus points to finish on 12 points.
Exeter’s prolific winger Jack Nowell was selected for the Lions this year, playing four games and scoring two tries on the tour.
Thomas Waldrom regularly finishes at the top end of the Premiership’s try scoring charts for the Chiefs. Last season the back rower scored nine tries in the league and the season before that was the overall top try scorer with 13.
The Exeter squad includes several more players capped at international level, such as Michele Campagnaro (Italy), Henry Slade (England) and Lachlan Turner (Australia).
Exeter have made a strong start to the defence of their Premiership title with four wins from six games putting them second in the table one point behind Saracens. Their two defeats so far have come away from home against Gloucester on the opening weekend and to Leicester Tigers.
Lost 28-21 v Gloucester (Away)
Won 37-7 v London Irish (Home)
Won 41-10 v Worcester Warriors (Away)
Won 31-17 v Wasps (Home)
Lost 20-13 v Leicester Tigers (Away)
Won 34-24 v Newcastle Falcons (Home)
Champions Cup fixtures
Home v Glasgow Warriors (Saturday, 14th October, KO 7.45pm)
Away v Montpellier (Sunday, 22nd October, KO 2pm local)
Home v Leinster Rugby (Sunday, 10th December, KO 5.30pm) Supporter info
Away v Leinster Rugby (Saturday, 16th December, KO 3.15pm) Tickets on sale 17th October at leinsterrugby.ie/tickets – Click here to sign up and get tickets first
Home v Montpellier (12th/13th/14th January, TBC)
Away v Glasgow Warriors (19th/20th/21st January, TBC)
Glasgow qualified for the quarter-finals of the Champions Cup for the first time in the team’s history when they finished second in Pool 1 behind Munster and ahead of Leicester Tigers and Racing 92.
In the quarter-finals they travelled to London to face defending champions Saracens, losing out 38-13.
Glasgow finished outside the play-off places in last season’s Guinness PRO12 table, winning 11 and losing 11 of their 22 games.
Gregor Townsend finished as head coach at the end of the season to take up the same role with Scotland, and has been replaced by former Chiefs coach Dave Rennie.
Rennie joined the Chiefs in 2012 and won a Super Rugby title in his first season. This was followed by a second title in 2013.
Three Glasgow Warriors players, Finn Russell, Tommy Seymour and Stuart Hogg, featured for the Lions in the tour to New Zealand this year. Seymour played in four games scoring three tries, Hogg had to withdraw due to injury after two appearances on his second tour, and Russell made one appearance after being called up as injury cover.
Glasgow have also signed a number of players from Super Rugby clubs, and have brought scrum-half Nikola Matawalu back into the squad after two season in the English Premiership.
Under new head coach Rennie Glasgow have gone unbeaten in their opening six games in this season’s Guinness PRO14, conceding fewer points than any other team (98).
The run of six wins in the Championship includes an opening weekend win away to Connacht and impressive 37-10 victory over Munster at Scotstoun.
Glasgow lead PRO14 Conference ‘A’ with 28 points, the best record so far in either conference.
Won 18-12 v Connacht (Away)
Won 31-10 v Ospreys (Home)
Won 19-20 v Cardiff Blues (Away)
Won 37-10 v Munster (Home)
Won 37-21 Benetton Rugby (Home)
Won 26-29 v Cheetahs (Away)
Champions Cup fixtures
Away v Exeter Chiefs (Saturday, 14th October, KO 7.45pm)
Home v Leinster Rugby (Saturday, 21st October, KO 1pm) Supporter info
Home v Montpellier (Friday, 8th December, KO 7.45pm)
Away v Montpellier (Saturday, 16th December, KO 2pm)
Away v Leinster Rugby (12th/13th/14th January, TBC) Sign up for ticket info
Home v Exeter Chiefs (19th/20th/21st January, TBC)
Leinster and Montpellier were drawn together in Champions Cup Pool 4 last season, along with Northampton Saints and Castres Olympique. Montpellier won three games and lost three, missing out on a best runner-up place in the quarter-finals on points difference behind Toulon.
Montpellier finished third in the TOP 14 table at the end of the regular season, earning a home quarter-final against Racing 92 which they lost 13-22.
Montpellier recruited extensively in the off-season, most notably bringing in Ruan Pienaar from Ulster, along with 50-cap All Blacks out-half Aaron Cruden.
Montpellier have also brought in France international Louis Picamoles (65 caps) from Northampton Saints and Julien Bardy from Clermont Auvergne to add to a squad that already includes South African internationals Bismarck and Jannie du Plessis (79 and 70 caps), Francois Steyn (56 caps) and Jan Serfontein (33 caps).
Montpellier have made a strong start to their campaign in France, winning five of their first seven games putting them second in the table on 24 points behind early pacesetters Lyon (27).
Won 48-19 v Agen (Home)
Won 37-6 v Oyonnax (Home)
Won 17-22 v Castres (Away)
Won 43-20 v Toulon (Home)
Lost 47-17 v Bordeaux (Away)
Won 54-10 v Brive (Home)
Lost 31-20 v Stade Francais (Away)
Champions Cup fixtures
Away v Leinster Rugby (Saturday, 14th October, KO 1pm) Get tickets
Home v Exeter Chiefs (Sunday, 22nd October, KO 2pm local)
Away v Glasgow Warriors (Friday, 8th December, KO 7.45pm)
Home v Glasgow Warriors (Saturday, 16th December, KO 2pm local)
Away v Exeter Chiefs (12th/13th/14th January, TBC)
Home v Leinster Rugby (19th/20th/21st January, TBC) Supporter info
Leinster Rugby’s European campaign kicks off this Saturday at the RDS Arena against Montpellier. Get your tickets now and join the roar!