Sunday, January 16, 2022

i’s Guide to Champions Cup Round 3 – Watch, team news and talking points

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Wasps face Toulouse in free-to-air after beating Leicester last week and Leinster seek revenge after Montpellier’s 28-0 win in the second leg

French border restrictions and Covid outbreaks wreaked havoc in round two as seven out of 12 matches were cancelled.

The Champions Cup is back for its third round of the season, the penultimate round of pool stage matches.

However, all matches from this round are expected to be played this weekend and all will also be televised in the UK.

Racing 92 and Ulster lead the charge in Pool A and Harlequins, Munster and Leicester are top of Pool B by 9 points.

It has not been a good start to the Champions Cup for Cardiff, who sit at the bottom of Pool B after losses to Toulouse and Harlequins.

Quins has had five straight wins in all competitions, going 43-17 victories when those two sides met in December.

But with Cardiff welcoming four Welsh internationals and Lions star Josh Adams back to the XV, the result is not a given.

Here’s everything you need to know before the final round of play:

The fact that Castres and Munster are flying high in the top 14 and the United Rugby Championship (URC) was shown in their clash in December, from which Munster emerged victorious by a narrow margin of 16:13.

Both go into the game in fine form, with Munster beating leaders Ulster last weekend and Castres on a streak of four straight league wins.

Four Ireland internationals join Munster’s side: captain Peter O’Mahony, scrum-half Conor Murray and wings Keith Earls and Andrew Conway.

Unbeaten in the Champions Cup and second in the top 14, Toulouse are a formidable opponent for any team.

But Wasps could not have had better preparation for the weekend’s free-to-air game than ending Leicester’s 15-game winning streak in the Premiership last Saturday.

With 19 players down, Wasps have made five changes to keep things fresh. The most notable are Paolo Odugwu, returning in wing center and Jacob Umaga at full-back.

While these two teams have been inconsistent in La Liga so far this season, their starts in the Champions Cup are a tale of contrasting fortunes.

Ospreys are rooted to the bottom of Group A after back-to-back defeats, while Racing 92 lead the table by a whopping +59 points difference.

20-year-old rear rower Will Hickey could make his Ospreys debut from the bench, while Scottish dynamo Finn Russell is lining up for Racing.

When Connacht and Leicester met on December 19th we were treated to a spectacle. Tigers, without George Ford and Ellis Genge, rebounded from 17-12 at halftime to record a 29-23 triumph.

Their apparent invincibility was quashed by Wasps last weekend but Connacht will know how to beware of a side motivated to get back to winning ways.

Connacht head coach Andy Friend hands Matt Healy, the club’s record goalscorer, his first start of the season on the wing, while the Tigers have made eight changes to the XV, who lost to Wasps.

Buoyed by last week’s hard-fought 22-19 comeback win over Worcester, which marked their first win in 211 days, Bath go into the clash hoping for their first Champions Cup win of the season.

Tom de Glanville, who has been a rare bright spot in Bath’s torrid season, is absent through injury but Scotland’s Cameron Redpath returns after suffering a half-time injury for his first start since May.

With every team in Europe recording one win and one loss, Glasgow and Exeter will meet at Sandy Park four weeks after the Warriors’ 22-7 win in the first leg.

While regular Alec Hepburn is out for the Chiefs, they have been bolstered by the return of England international Luke Cowan-Dickie.

Glasgow make just one change to the XV who beat Ospreys last week, with Jack Dempsey returning in 8th place while Ryan Wilson falls to the bench.

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