Five things to watch out for this weekend

It's another busy weekend of rugby action with semi-finals of European competitions and Super Rugby Round 9 - here's five things to look out for from a British & Irish Lions perspective across the globe. [more]

Five things to watch out for this weekend

It’s another busy weekend of rugby action with semi-finals of European competitions and Super Rugby Round 9 – here’s five things to look out for from a British & Irish Lions perspective across the globe.

English Roses go head-to-head at the Madejski Stadium

Wasps and Saracens face off at Reading’s Madejski Stadium on Saturday with a place in the European Rugby Champion’s Cup at stake.

The top two in the Premiership table contain a host of English talent hoping to be on the plane to New Zealand next summer.

Christian Wade, a British and Irish Lion in 2013, goes into the game on the back of his six-try blitz last weekend with Elliot Daly, Joe Launchbury and James Haskell all hoping to impress potential Lions coaches.

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Saracens have their own raft of internationals to choose from though with European player of the year nominees Owen Farrell, George Kruis, Billy Vunipola and Maro Itoje all set to play.

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England v France in unfamiliar surroundings

Leicester Tigers take on Racing 92 at the City Ground, Nottingham, to decide the other European Champions Cup finalist, on Sunday.

Both sides knocked out French opposition in the quarter-finals with Tigers beating Stade Francais and Dan Carter’s Racing squeezing past Toulon.

Tigers will have several Lions on display with Manu Tuilagi, Ben Youngs and Dan Cole all named in the starting XV, with Tom Croft set to make an impact off the bench.

Racing are coached by former Lion Ronan O’Gara and will he hoping the magic boot of All Black Dan Carter can give them the edge and lead them through to the Champions Cup final.
Harlequins hoping to bring Challenge Cup home

Last year’s European Rugby Challenge Cup final took place at The Stoop and Harlequins are looking to bring the trophy back to their stomping ground this season.

Gloucester won the trophy in 2015 but Harlequins face Grenoble at The Stoop on Friday night searching for a place in this year’s final in Lyon next month.

Mike Brown, Danny Care and Joe Marler will be hoping to continue their push for a place on a first Lions tour with Scotland’s Tim Visser also wanting to continue his impressive season on the wing.

Harlequins are the top points and try scorers in this year’s competition and a continuation of the performances that put them top of rankings could well see them taking a trip to France next month.
Newport Gwent Dragons looking for comfort in Europe

After eight consecutive losses, Dragons will be taking a trip to the continent after a break from their league woes.

Their only victory in recent times came with an impressive performance to knock last season’s European Rugby Challenge Cup winners Gloucester out in the last round.

Taulupe Faletau has been given a clean bill of health for the game and the Lion, who is also a proud Dragon, will hope to lead his side out of their slump and into a European final.

Should he do so it would be a step further than they went in the competition last year and continue the Dragons’ hunt for a first piece of silverware since their formation in 2003.
Battle of New Zealand’s North Island in Super Rugby

The tie of the round sees league leaders the Chiefs take on the Hurricanes in a first-versus-fourth fixture.

Chiefs had a bye week in Round 8 but come into the game with six wins from seven games this season and made it ten wins on the bounce against Blues in their Super Rugby outing.

Hurricanes blew the Rebels away in the last round, scoring six tries including a double from All Black fly-half Beauden Barrett, who will be looking to replace Dan Carter in Steve Hansen’s next starting line-up for New Zealand.

A win for Chiefs would maintain Dave Rennie’s side’s position atop the Australasian Group table but a Hurricanes win would give the chance to fellow Kiwi side Crusaders to leapfrog the Waikato team, as New Zealand sides continue to dominate their Australian rivals in the opening Super Rugby rounds.

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