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Six nations: England Rugby news

European Rugby Champions Cup

The European Rugby Champions Cup is an annual rugby union tournament organized by European Professional Club Rugby. It is the top-tier competition for clubs whose country's national team competes in the Six Nations Championship.

Number of teams: 20
Most titles: Toulouse (4 titles)
Holders: Saracens(2nd title) (2016-17)

Bilbao's San Mamès Stadium is the venue for the 2018 European Rugby Champions Cup finals. Prized qualification for the knockout stages, as well as the incentive of a home quarter-final, will be on the line in January when Europe's top rugby clubs go face to face in battle in what promises to be an exciting series of matches in Rounds 5 and 6 of the Champions Cup and Challenge Cup. With the road to the much-anticipated 2018 Bilbao finals certain to be clearer when the pool stages are completed, the exact dates, kick-off times and broadcast coverage for the key fixtures have been announced on Thursday, 21 December.

Rounds 5 and 6 Champions Cup fixtures
Harlequins v Wasps Saturday 13th January 2018 Twickenham Stoop, Twickenham
Harlequins v Wasps Saturday 13th January 2018 Twickenham Stoop, Twickenham
Northampton Saint v ASM Clermont Auvergne Saturday 13th January 2018 Franklin's Gardens, Northampton
Ospreys v Saracens Saturday 13th January 2018 Liberty Stadium, Swansea
Leinster Rugby v Glasgow Warriors Sunday 14th January 2018 RDS Arena, Dublin
RC Toulon v Benetton Rugby Sunday 14th January 2018 Stade Félix Mayol, Toulon
Racing 92 v Munster Rugby Sunday 14th January 2018 U Arena, Paris
Castres Olympique v Leicester Tigers Sunday 14th January 2018 Stade Pierre Fabre, Castres

Champions Cup, Pool 5 leaders, Bath Rugby, will get Round 5 underway at the Recreation Ground against the Scarlets, who are only one point behind in the standings, on Friday, 12 January. La Rochelle will travel to go head to head with Ulster Rugby at the Kingspan Stadium in a crunch tie at the top of Pool 1 on Saturday, 13 January. Racing 92 and Munster Rugby will clash on Sunday, 14 January in the debut Champions Cup match at the amazing new U Arena. The Round 5 pool winners and the 3 best runners-up from both competitions are set to book their places in the quarter-finals. With the Round 6 fixtures in the same Champions Cup pools kicking off at the same time, the eight quarter-finalists will be known on Sunday, 21 January following the concluding games in Pool 1 between Wasps and Ulster Rugby at the Ricoh Arena, and between La Rochelle and Harlequins at Stade Marcel-Deflandre.

The Challenge Cup returns on Friday, 12 January with the not-to-be-missed battle between Pool 4 leaders, Edinburgh Rugby, and holders, Stade Francais Paris, at Myreside. Agen host Gloucester Rugby in Pool 3 at Stade Armandie. Cardiff Blues and Toulouse go head-to-head on Sunday, 14 January in a repeat of the inaugural 1996 European Cup final at the historic Cardiff Arms Park. Challenge Cup fixtures will be staged for the first time in Georgia in Round 6 when Enisei-STM play Newcastle Falcons, and Krasny Yar meet London Irish in a double-header at Tbilisi's Avchala Stadium on Saturday, 20 January. Round 6 will be wrapped with the return fixture between Edinburgh and Stade Francais Paris at Jean Bouin.

Knockout Stages
Quarter-finals: 29/30/31 March - 1 April 2018
Semi-finals: 20/21/22 April 2018

2018 Bilbao finals
Challenge Cup final - San Mamés Stadium; Friday, 11 May
Champions Cup final - San Mamés Stadium; Saturday, 12 May

2018 Six Nations News

ENGLAND
The English clubs in Europe all fell to defeats in the Champions Cup last weekend. Saracens' clash with Clermont Auvergne was called off due to a snowstorm, and on Saturday Bath could not hold off Toulon at the Stade Felix Mayol. Anthony Watson and Jonathan Joseph both scored for the West Country outfit but in the end they fell short. Skipper Dylan Hartley crossed for one of Northampton Saints' five tries but they were edged out by Ospreys in a dramatic 43-32 match at Franklin's Gardens. Leicester Tigers were defeated at Thomond Park with George Ford kicking 5 points in the 33-10 loss. Elliot Daly and Kyle Sinckler both crossed for tries on Sunday but Wasps and Harlequins lost to La Rochelle and Ulster respectively. At Sandy Park on Sunday, Henry Slade and Jack Nowell could not prevent Leinster from becoming the first side to beat them at home in months. In the Challenge Cup, Worcester, Sale, Gloucester, and Newcastle all won their clashes. The Irish provinces all won in a clean sweep.

IRELAND
Jonathan Sexton returned to Leinster and scored a try as the Irish province claimed a massive victory over Exeter Chiefs at Sandy Park. The Chiefs were defeated by Leinster in a bruising encounter. Sexton crossed in the first half and Jack Conan in the second for Leinster who have now won three from three to top their Pool. Munster skipper Peter O'Mahony crossed for a try, so did fellow British & Irish Lion Simon Zebo in their defeat of the Leicester Tigers. Ulster were too strong for Harlequins at a snowy Stoop. Connacht continued their winning start to the Challenge Cup as Bundee Aki returned to the starting XV for their bonus-point victory against Brive.

WALES
Sam Warburton will miss the upcoming 2018 NatWest 6 Nations. Warren Gatland and Wales will have to count on Taulupe Faletau. Ospreys and Scarlets both claimed their first wins of their respective Champions Cup campaigns. The Scarlets needed a last-gasp try to down Benetton Rugby and keep their qualification hopes alive. Wales scrum-half Gareth Davies impressed in the first half with a quickfire double. Leigh Halfpenny and Rhys Patchell combined from the tee to add eight more points in the comeback win. The Ospreys who competed without key players Dan Biggar and Rhys Webb claimed victory at Franklin's Gardens. Sam Davies kicked 13 points in an 11-try thriller that saw full-back Dan Evans grab a double to take his tally to 6 tries in 3 European outings this season. In the Challenge Cup the Cardiff Blues were held scoreless in defeat at Sale Sharks however they are in contention in their Pool. Adam Warren crossed twice for the Dragons on Friday night as they downed Enisei STM.

SCOTLAND
Stuart McInally was key to Edinburgh’s victory as they defeated the London Irish in the Challenge Cup on Saturday. The back-row turned hooker scored a try and Richard Cockerill believes McInally is the man to start in the 2018 NatWest 6 Nations. "He's had a great season, he's worked hard and he deserves to be starting hooker," Cockerill said. "He captained the side, drove the team well and performed like he was playing for Scotland. He performed as a Test player and that's a credit to him. It's hard to do after the workload he's had in the last few weeks. He's just getting better and better and he's a pleasure to work with." Edinburgh put 8 tries on Irish to take control of Pool 4 and exciting youngster Darcy Graham was one of the try scorers, Phil Burleigh dotted down twice while Sam Hidalgo-Clyne continued his try-scoring form following his hat-trick last weekend. Glasgow Warriors' poor discipline cost them a defeat at Scotstoun against Montpellier. George Turner and Jonny Gray both saw yellow in defeat to the Top 14 powerhouses that puts them out of the running for the Champions Cup quarter-finals.

FRANCE
France fly-half Anthony Belleau scored the decisive try for Toulon that saw them down Bath. The 21-year-old is building a strong case for inclusion as No.10 in the 2018 NatWest 6 Nations. Belleau made his debut for Les Bleus in the fall in their defeats to New Zealand and South Africa, scoring a try in the latter. Mathieu Bastareaud was named man of the match in the clash at the Stade Felix Mayol. Mathieu Jalibert showcased his serious potential with a star showing in Bordeaux's defeat to Newcastle. Jalibert scored a magnificent solo try at Kingston Park. The Clermont v Saracens game was called off due to the heavy snow.

ITALY
Benetton Rugby came close to downing Toulon in Round 2 and last weekend tried again against the Scarlets. After losing Francesco Minto to a first-half red card, Kieran Crowley's side showed character to come fighting back and led 28-21 with less than 10 minutes remaining. Jayden Hayward crossed as did Angelo Esposito, Robert Barbieri and Federico Ruzza, but had to settle for two losing bonus points at the Parc y Scarlets. Zebre came storming back against Gloucester Rugby late on but ran out of time. Renato Giammarioli was 1 of their 4 try scorers in a 33-26 defeat but they will head to Gloucester next weekend full of confidence.

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