Five things to look out for in Round 2 of European club action 

The opening weekend of European club rugby was packed with drama, tension and a whole lot of tries and it is likely to be exactly the same in Round 2.

The opening weekend of European club rugby was packed with drama, tension and a whole lot of tries and it is likely to be exactly the same in Round 2.

The action begins tonight, as Gloucester take on Leinster and Bordeaux-Begles clash with the Cell C Sharks in the Heineken Champions Cup while there are three matches in the European Challenge Cup, including Glasgow Warriors hosting Perpignan.

Ahead of another packed weekend, here are five things to look out for in Round two of European club rugby.

1. Russell goes to battle with Allan in London

A week after Scotland fly-half Finn Russell’s much anticipated battle with Jonny Sexton was put on hold due to the Irishman’s injury, he will line-up against another Guinness Six Nations fly-half in Tommy Allan.

Russell’s Racing 92 came unstuck big time against a Sexton-less Leinster, suffering a harrowing 42-10 defeat in Le Havre and last season’s semi-finalists will be hoping for much better this weekend.

They take on Harlequins at the Twickenham Stoop in a game packed with internationals on both sides, but the one everyone will be firmly focusing on is the battle of the No.10s.

Italy stand-off Allan, who recently signed a deal to join Perpignan for next season, is deputising for England fly-half Marcus Smith after he sustained an injury against South Africa in the Autumn Nations Series.

He too will be hoping for more after Harlequins were held off 39-31 by the Cell C Sharks in Durban – whatever happens, with Allan and Russell are on the pitch there is sure to be plenty of flair on show on Sunday evening.

2. Cole reaches huge landmark as Tigers host Clermont

England prop Dan Cole has been a mainstay for club and country for what feels like an eternity and this weekend marks his 300th appearance in the green, red and white of Leicester Tigers.

After a 23-17 victory over the Ospreys in Round 1 in which Cole was rested, he will now get to make the landmark number in front of over 20,000 Tigers’ faithful at Mattioli Woods Welford Road as Tigers host ASM Clermont Auvergne.

Cole is one of seven England internationals in a strong Tigers side gearing up for the visit of French opposition.

France winger and Autumn Nations Series Player of the Series Damian Penaud lines up for Clermont in a mouth-watering battle with England winger Anthony Watson, who scored a sublime try in Swansea last Sunday.

It is set to be a highly competitive game between two sides with victories in the opening round and Tigers will have the added impetus of playing for Cole.

3. Ulster face daunting French challenge after humiliation

It was far from the ideal opening weekend for the Irish sides, with only Connacht winning in the Challenge Cup, but no team had it worse than Ulster who were on the wrong end of a 39-0 score line against Sale Sharks.

And what better team to face than the reigning champions La Rochelle to get back on track?

That is what Ulster face on Saturday, with the daunting visit of Les Maritimes to Belfast.

Ireland’s Iain Henderson will captain the side from blindside flanker, joined by centre Stuart McCloskey, while Scotland prop Rory Sutherland is also in action.

It will be a big challenge for the Ulstermen, with La Rochelle packed with French internationals, including three Grand Slam winners in the starting XV – Uini Atonio, Gregory Alldritt and Jonathan Danty.

4. Tipuric looking to inspire Ospreys to massive French win

After a narrow defeat at home to Tigers, Ospreys head to the south of France with a point to prove and no man will be more motivated to do just that than Justin Tipuric.

Wales’ captain during the Autumn Nations Series, Tipuric saw Wales win just one game from four and a first ever defeat to Georgia in Cardiff, prompting a change of head coach, with Warren Gatland returning in place of Wayne Pivac.

Italian Paolo Garbisi will once again start at inside centre after succeeding there in the 32-27 win over London Irish last Friday and Tipuric and his Welsh side will have to be at their best against the French champions.

5. Captains clash as Dupont and Curry face-off

Both Toulouse and Sale Sharks enjoyed excellent starts to their respective European adventures, with victories over Munster and Ulster respectively.

Toulouse came out on top 18-13 in horrific conditions in Limerick on Sunday, while Sale were in sensational form against Ulster at the AJ Bell Stadium as they went on to win 39-0.

Now the two heavyweights clash, and in doing so two captains from the Guinness Six Nations will go head-to-head when Tom Curry and Antoine Dupont lock horns.

Curry, who captained England in last year’s Championship against Scotland, was in try-scoring form in Manchester last week but will know his side will have to raise their game once more to come out on top against the five-time European champions.

It will be an intriguing contest and the performances of Curry and Dupont will be key in deciding the result.