The wait is over, arguably the most prestigious cup in club rugby returns this weekend and kicks off with three huge games this evening. Under the ‘Friday Nights Lights’ we open up the 2013/2014 Heineken Cup with Connacht hosting Saracens at the Sportsground, Ulster welcoming Leicester Tigers to Ravenhill and Toulouse inviting Italian minnows Zebre to the Stade Ernest Wallon. We the European rugby saga still ongoing we could be witnessing the last ever Heineken Cup- at least in its current format. All that aside lets forger about whats going on behind the scenes and enjoy the rugby. Ladies and Gentlemen… The Heineken Cup is back and that’s all you need to worry about!
Connacht Vs Saracens
Saracens’ rapid improvement in the Heineken Cup in recent years have made them favourites with many for this year’s title.
Quarter-finalists in 2012, they reached the semi-finals last year and now aim to go one better in 2013/14. And having won their opening five games of the Aviva Premiership season, they are showing the right form for Europe.Last season they twice defeated Irish provinces, Munster and Ulster, on their way to the semi-finals and Irishman Mark McCall is hoping victory in Galway can propel his team towards further success.Connacht have lost their last three games in the RaboDirect PRO12 but there were plenty of signs in their last home game, when they scored 26 points past the Ospreys, that the likes of new signings Jake Heenan, youngster Kieran Marmion and Super XV winning captain Craig Clarke are starting to gel.Ulster Rugby Vs Leicester Tigers
Heineken Cup heavyweights Ulster Rugby and Leicester Tigers go head-to-head in Belfast on Friday night in one of the most mouth-watering contests in this year’s competition.
Both teams are former European Champions, with Ulster claiming the continent’s top prize in 1999 and Leicester following suit in 2001 and 2002. Both are also recent losing finalists after the Tigers were beaten by London Wasps and Leinster in 2007 and 2009, before Ulster also lost out to Leinster two seasons ago.The sides met in Europe in the 2011/12 campaign, with Leicester winning 20-9 at Welford Road in Round 2 but Ulster taking revenge with a thumping success at Ravenhill in Round 5.Toulouse Vs Zebre
Four-time Heineken Cup champions Toulouse host Zebre at Stade Ernest Wallon on Friday in a David versus Goliath battle.
Zebre went through their entire debut season without securing a single victory in Heineken Cup or Pro12 action, but they broke their league duck with a famous victory over Cardiff Blues at the Arms Park earlier this month and are now targeting a similar success in Europe.The Italian franchise strengthened well in the summer and former All Black Brendon Leonard has become a vital talisman for the team in partnership with Luciano Orquera at half-back.But they could not face any more of a daunting challenge than travelling to the home of Toulouse. The French giants have never lost
to Italian opposition in European competition and boast a formidable record on their home patch having lost just once in their last 14 matches.
Jason is the editor at RugbyLAD. Any queries big or small you can reach him at [email protected]
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