Why only one English club will reach Cham­pi­ons Cup knock­out stage

Will Green­wood be­lieves Europe’s elite com­pe­ti­tion is so tough that most Premier­ship sides will fail to make the last eight

The Daily Telegraph - Sport - - Champions Cup -

POOL 1

Two English teams cre­ates ex­tra ex­cite­ment, with the odds of an English qual­i­fier dou­bled.

Wasps and Quins have al­ready met and Wasps had their do­mes­tic un­beaten record dented at the Ri­coh, which may give Quins hope of a sur­prise way out from this pool. Quins are ex­perts in the Chal­lenge Cup but the Euro­pean Cup has al­ways been a tough ex­pe­di­tion. I still have Wasps as favourites of the two English teams to qual­ify.

The big un­knowns are La Rochelle, the “French Ex­eter”. They are un­fan­cied, yet boast amaz­ing home sup­port, in­cred­i­ble noise, and are rarely cas­tled on the west coast of France. At the start of the sea­son, I thought their novice tag would rule out their chances of nav­i­gat­ing this pool. I gave them no chance of sur­viv­ing the away trips.

But that was then, this is now and I have called them as sur­prise group win­ners. Vic­tor Vito (be­low) is im­mense at eight. Kevin Gour­don (above), a spe­cial player along­side him in the back row. Th­ese guys run it from any­where. They are like Kevin Kee­gan’s New­cas­tle, happy to let you score three be­cause they will get four.

Ul­ster v Wasps in Belfast could be a crunch game. I al­ways en­joy the Belfast trips as a fan, away teams en­joy them less. Even so,

Ul­ster’s fail­ure to fire con­sis­tently con­tin­ues to hurt them.

Qual­i­fier: La Rochelle

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