European rugby finally returns today with as much excitement and fervor around the competition as there’s ever been. Reigning champions, Leinster, earned a record-tying 4th star last season after clinically waltzing through the competition and will open up the competition later today against Wasps in Dublin. After a few years of championship drought, the French clubs will be raring to get their hands on Europe’s shiniest silverware while the English, Welsh, Scottish, and Italian clubs have everything to prove.
This year’s expert panel continues to be an international hodgepodge of rugby enthusiasts. Out west we have Ronan Nelson, a soon-to-beUCLA graduate with a slight bias towards his Irish roots. Junoir Blaber, One of America’s few sources of African rugby news, continues his role as resident Rugby Rain Man from the confines of Niagara Falls. In the South Pacific we have “Driving Maul” Paul Bains, an Englishman currently living in enemy territory (New Zealand) who has turned himself into a great source of global rugby news through his online presence (Twitter: @DrivingMaul) There’s a Welshman and a Scotsman on the panel this year, the former being Jonnny Lewis, the digital wizard behind all of our video editing and podcast work who holds a love for Cardiff Rugby. Former Glasgow player Stephen Lewis, rugby coach extraordinaire and regular contributor on our Rugby Wrap Up show and podcast joins the team. Rounding out the Panel are Globe-Trotting-Correspondent, Jonathan Wicklow Barberie, and quite possibly the dirtiest rugby player in the world, Declan Yeats.
Can Scarlets finally overcome their European drought? Will Exeter prove they have what it takes to make it to a Cup final? Might Clermont step out of their role as eternal bridesmaid? All is yet to be seen, but our international panel of experts has made their predictions for this weekend’s first round of pool stage matches. If you disagree or agree with any of the experts’ predictions, let them know in the comments below why they are right/wrong!
RugbyWrapUp’s Expert Predictions: Champions Cup Round 1
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