Countdown to Europe: Get to know the opposition

Saracens players celebrate winning the European Champions Cup at BT Murrayfield last May. Image: Fotosport/David Gibson

THE 2017-18 season will step up a gear for both Edinburgh and Glasgow Warriors this week when they get their European campaigns underway. 

In the top tier competition, the European Champions Cup, Glasgow Warriors are hoping to at least match – and ideally do better than – last season’s best ever achievement of reaching the quarter-finals. They kick off their campaign away to Exeter Chiefs on Saturday night [kick-off: 7.45pm].

The Warriors have had a rip-roaring start to their Guinness PRO14 season, but history tells us that league form does not always translate into success in Europe.

As reported by My Top Sportsbooks the outlook isn’t so rosy for Dave Rennie’s side this season. Their chances of winning Pool 3 (14/1 odds), where they’ll face Leinster and Montpellier as well as the Chiefs, are the slimmest in the pool. And their long odds of winning the competition outright (50/1) makes them a heavy underdogs.

Last year’s finalists, Saracens (5/2) and Clermont Auvergne (7/1), are among the favorites along with Toulon (6/1). It’s going to require a huge upset for Glasgow to emerge victorious.

Here is the lowdown on Glasgow Warriors’ opponents in Pool 3 –

Club Name: Exeter Chiefs 
Home Ground: Sandy Park (Capacity: 12,600)
Head Coach: Rob Baxter
Captain: Jack Yeandle 
Player to Watch: Jack Nowell 
Unsung Hero: Ben Moon 
Recent League Form: W, L, W, W, W
Recent European Placings:
2016-17 Champions Cup – 3rd in Pool 5
2015-16 Champions Cup – Lost to Wasps in quarter-final
2014-15 Challenge Cup – Lost to Gloucester in semi-final
Best Ever European Placing: Champions Cup quarter-finalists in 2015-16
Claim to Fame: English Aviva Premiership champions last season

Club Name: Leinster
Home Ground: RDS Arena (Capacity: 18,500) or Aviva Stadium (51,700)
Head Coach: Leo Cullen
Captain: Isa Nacewa
Player to Watch: Jonathan Sexton
Unsung Hero: Rhys Ruddock
Recent League Form: W, W, L, W, W
Recent European Placings:
2016-17 Champions Cup – Lost to Clermont in semi-final
2015-16 Champions Cup – 4th in Pool 5
2014-15 Champions Cup – Lost to Toulon (aet) in semi-final
Best Ever European Placing: European Champions in 2008-09, 2010-11 and 2011-12
Claim to Fame: Have not lost to Glasgow Warriors in Europe this century (they have played five times)

Club Name: Montpellier
Home Ground: Altrad Stadium (Capacity: 12,719)
Head Coach: Vern Cotter (remember him?)
Captain: Louis Picamoles
Player to Watch: Aaron Cruden
Unsung Hero: Jesse Mogg
Recent League Form: L, W, L, W, W
Recent European Placings:
2016-17 Champions Cup – 2nd in Pool 4
2015-16 Challenge Cup – Champions
2014-15 Champions Cup – 4th in Pool 4
Best Ever European Placing: Champions Cup quarter-finalists in 2012-13
Claim to Fame: Have never beaten Scottish opposition in Champions Cup (lost three and drawn one). Not much of a claim to fame! Okay, how about this: owner Mohad Altrad showed he meant business this season when he signed-off the £1m transfer fee to Northampton Saints for France No 8 Louis Picamoles.

 

Stade Francais players celebrate winning the Challenge Cup Final at BT Murrayfield in Edinburgh last May.
Image: Fotosport/David Gibson – www.fotosportuk.photoshelter.com

MEANWHILE, in the second tier Challenge Cup, Edinburgh did well to finish top of their pool last time with five wins and just one loss, but they were stopped short by French side La Rochelle in the quarter-finals. This season, they have a reasonable shot at winning their pool (3/1 odds) according to My Top Sportsbooks, but in order to do that they’ll have to overcome last season’s winners, Stade Francais.

Their chances of taking home the cup (14/1) aren’t great. Last year’s runner-up, Gloucester, are the favorites to win outright (9/4) and French sides Toulouse, Bordeaux, and Stade Francais will all be tough to beat.

Here is the lowdown on Edinburgh’s opponents in Pool 3 –

Club Name: Krasny Yar (Russia)
Home Ground: Krasny Yar Stadium (Capacity: 3,200)
Head Coach: Igor Nikolaychuk
Captain: Vasili Artemiev
Player to Watch: Vasili Artemyev
Unsung Hero: Bogdan Fedotko
Recent League Form: W, L, W, L, W
Recent European Placings:
2016-17 European Continental Shield Play-Off 1 – runner-up
2017-18 European Continental Shield Play-Off 1 – Champs
Best Ever European Placing: 2017-18 European Continental Shield Play-Off 1 – Champs
Claim to Fame: Scotland 7s star Nick McLennan played briefly for Krasny Yar in 2010. The team plays in the Russian ‘Professional Rugby League’ with a reported operating budget of 2.5m Euros, making them one of the biggest clubs in that competition.

Club Name: London Irish
Home Ground: Madjeski Stadium (Capcity: 24,200)
Head Coach: Nick Kennedy
Captain: David Paice
Player to Watch: James Marshall
Unsung Hero: Joshua McNally
Recent League Form: L, L, L, L, L
Recent European Placings:
2015-16 Challenge Cup – Lost to Harlequins in quarter-final
2014-15 Challenge Cup – Lost to Edinburgh in quarter-final
2013-14 Amlin Cup – 2nd on points difference in Pool 5
Best Ever European Placing: Heineken Cup semi-finalists in 2007-08
Claim to Fame: A squad containing a couple of familiar faces for Edinburgh fans in former club captain Mike Coman and utility back Greig Tonks.

Club Name: Stade Francais Paris
Home Ground: Stade Jean Bouin (Capacity: 12,000)
Head Coach: Greg Cooper
Captain: Sergio Parisse
Player to Watch: Sekou Macalou
Unsung Hero: Alexandre Flanquart
Recent League Form: W, W, L, L, L
Recent European Placings:
2016-17 Challenge Cup – Champions
2015-16 Champions Cup – Lost to Leicester in quarter-final
2014-15 Challenge Cup – 3rd in Pool 3
Best Ever European Placing: Heineken Cup beaten finalists in 2000-01 and 2004-05
Claim to Fame: They are currently struggling in the lower reaches of the French Top 14 table although secured a confidence boosting win over Montpellier at the weekend and have been national champions as recently as 2015. Were also Challenge Cup champions last year.

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David Barnes
About David Barnes 602 Articles
David has worked as a freelance rugby journalist since 2004 covering every level of the game in Scotland for publications including The Sunday Times, The Telegraph, The Scotsman/Scotland on Sunday/Evening News, The Herald/Sunday Herald, The Daily Mail/Mail on Sunday and The Sun.