The high quality of the Challenge Cup is emphasised by a Round 1 meeting of former winners, Northampton Saints and ASM Clermont Auvergne, at Franklin’s Gardens on Saturday in pool 1 alongside the Dragons.
Both Saints and Clermont won their home fixture when they met in the pool stage of the Champions Cup last season, but the French outfit have made an electric start to the domestic season and currently head the TOP 14 table.
The tournament brings together European heavyweights and clubs from emerging rugby nations, never better exemplified by the Round 1 clash of last season’s Continental Shield winners, Enisei-STM, and La Rochelle at the Krasny Yar Stadium in Krasnoyarsk. Exactly a year ago, the Siberian city was the setting of a major Challenge Cup shock when Krasny Yar defeated holders Stade Français Paris.
Other Challenge Cup, Round 1 pointers include:
• Two-time winners, Sale Sharks, open the tournament tomorrow evening as they travel to Stade Aimé Giral in Pool 3 to face Perpignan who return to European action this season.
• Connacht Rugby will extend their record tally of Challenge Cup matches to 120 when they entertain Bordeaux-Bègles at The Sportsground.
• Three other former tournament winners also feature this season. Pau, victorious in 2000, will be looking to go one step further than their run to the semi-finals last season when they travel to the Ospreys in Pool 2, while the 2017 winners, Stade Français Paris, host Worcester Warriors, and three-time winners, Harlequins, are at home against Agen in Pool 5.
CLICK HERE to secure your tickets for Dragons first home game in the Challenge Cup this season against Northampton Saints next Friday (19 October) with early bird tickets now available