Saracens again lead English into Europe but Scarlets could lift Welsh_Top News_Asia Pacific Daily

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Saracens again lead English into Europe but Scarlets could lift Welsh

Top News2017-10-13

There is a fresh feel to this year’s European Champions Cup as the continent’s gladiators strap on their body armour. First and foremost, the final will be staged in Spain next May, with Bilbao’s San Mamés stadium and Guggenheim museum promising a very different cultural experience. And why not? Endlessly doing the same old things is not the way ahead for an ambitious professional sport. From the Basque Country to Bath this is also a campaign full of other enticing possibilities. Not so long ago it was widely felt that digging in for the odd losing away bonus point was vital to eventual qualification. Increasingly, more sides are understanding that try bonus points, particularly at home, make an even bigger difference. Saracens, the defending champions, have scored 46 pool tries en route to successive titles; their three tries against Clermont Auvergne in last year’s final compared with Owen Farrell’s seven penalties against Racing in 2016 further underlined their positive intent. A hat-trick of Champions Cups for the dominant north London side would certainly establish them among the greatest club sides of all time. The omens are decent: they start their defence against Northampton on Sunday having previously stuck 50 points past the startled Saints at Twickenham on the domestic season’s opening weekend. If there is to be any Basque basking next May, however, they will need to offset the loss of the injured Billy Vunipola in the pool stages and pray their other internationals stay fit. Last season their European exertions arguably cost them the Premiership crown, Exeter catching them napping in Devon within days of their opponents’ Murrayfield triumph over Clermont. It would make much more sense for the European finale to be the official climax to the domestic season but the French and English league moguls have other priorities. The best of the best get minimal rest as a consequence. (THEGUARDIAN)

There is a fresh feel to this year’s European Champions Cup as the continent’s gladiators strap on their body armour. First and foremost, the final will be staged in Spain next May, with Bilbao’s San Mamés stadium and Guggenheim museum promising a very different cultural experience. And why not? Endlessly doing the same old things is not the way ahead for an ambitious professional sport.

From the Basque Country to Bath this is also a campaign full of other enticing possibilities. Not so long ago it was widely felt that digging in for the odd losing away bonus point was vital to eventual qualification. Increasingly, more sides are understanding that try bonus points, particularly at home, make an even bigger difference. Saracens, the defending champions, have scored 46 pool tries en route to successive titles; their three tries against Clermont Auvergne in last year’s final compared with Owen Farrell’s seven penalties against Racing in 2016 further underlined their positive intent.

A hat-trick of Champions Cups for the dominant north London side would certainly establish them among the greatest club sides of all time. The omens are decent: they start their defence against Northampton on Sunday having previously stuck 50 points past the startled Saints at Twickenham on the domestic season’s opening weekend. If there is to be any Basque basking next May, however, they will need to offset the loss of the injured Billy Vunipola in the pool stages and pray their other internationals stay fit.

Last season their European exertions arguably cost them the Premiership crown, Exeter catching them napping in Devon within days of their opponents’ Murrayfield triumph over Clermont. It would make much more sense for the European finale to be the official climax to the domestic season but the French and English league moguls have other priorities. The best of the best get minimal rest as a consequence.

(THEGUARDIAN)

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