The EPCR Challenge Cup Round of 16 fixture dates, venues, kick-off times and TV coverage have been confirmed with Connacht playing Benetton on Saturday April 1st.

The game will be played in the Studio di Monigo with kick-off at 3pm Irish time. The game will be shown on EPCR TV.

The winner of the tie will go on to play either Cardiff Rugby or Sale Sharks the following weekend of April 7/8/9.

EPCR CHALLENGE CUP – Round of 16
(Pool stage rankings in brackets / All kick-offs local times)

Friday 31 March
Match 4: Bristol Bears (A4) v ASM Clermont Auvergne (HCC9), Ashton Gate (20.00)
Viaplay-Premier Sports / beIN SPORTS

Match 8: Scarlets (B1) v CA Brive (A6), Parc y Scarlets (20.00)

Saturday 1 April
Match 1: RC Toulon (A1) v Toyota Cheetahs (B6), Stade Félix Mayol (13.30)

Match 5: Stade Francais Paris (B4) v Lyon (HCC9), Stade Jean Bouin (16.00)

Match 7: Benetton Rugby (B2) v Connacht Rugby (A5), Stadio di Monigo (16.00)
epcrugby.tv

Match 2: Glasgow Warriors (A2) v Dragons RFC (B5), Scotstoun (17.30)

Match 6: Emirates Lions (B3) v Racing 92 (HCC10), Emirates Airline Park (18.30)

Match 3: Cardiff Rugby (A3) v Sale Sharks (HCC10), Cardiff Arms Park (20.00)

Quarter-finals – 7/8/9 April
QF 1: Winner Match 1 v Winner Match 5
QF 2: Winner Match 7 v Winner Match 3
QF 3: Winner Match 2 v Winner Match 6
QF 4: Winner Match 8 v Winner Match 4
NB The highest-ranked clubs from the pool stage will have home advantage

Semi-finals – 28/29/30 April
SF 1: winner QF 1 v winner QF 2
SF 2: winner QF 3 v winner QF 4
NB The matches will be played in Europe and the highest-ranked clubs from the pool stage will have home venue advantage

2023 EPCR Challenge Cup final: Friday 19 May; Aviva Stadium, Dublin

Its round 9 of the BKT United Rugby Championship as Connacht welcome Benetton to The Sportsground this Saturday. 

Here’s everything you need to know ahead of Saturday’s game.

When’s the game?

Kick-off at is at 3.15pm on Saturday 3rd December.

What’s the state of play so far?

Connacht began block two of the BKT URC season away to Munster in a game that ended in defeat for Andy Friend’s side, 24-17.

Benetton come to Galway having beaten Edinburgh at home on Saturday, 24-17.

How’s our recent record against them?

Our recent record against the Munster over the last five games have been as follows,

  • Ben 17-21 Con
  • Ben 17-19 Con
  • Con 31-14 Ben
  • Con 41-5 Ben
  • Con 29-14 Ben

How will the two teams line up?

The Connacht management team will announce their squad at 12pm on Friday when it will be named on connachtrugby.ie and the Connacht Rugby social channels.

How do I get tickets?

Tickets are available HERE

What channel is it on?

RTE 1 and Viaplay (formerly Premier Sports) will have live TV coverage while Galway Bay FM have live radio commentary.

Head coach Andy Friend is confident that Connacht will put last weekend’s defeat to Leinster in the United Rugby Championship(URC) behind them when they travel to Benetton Rugby in the URC this coming weekend. 

 

Benetton sit fourteenth in the table this season, but, despite this, Friend is wary of the Italians’ strengths and says that his team will need to be at their best to get what could prove to be a crucial win. 

 

“It’ll be a tough task to go to Bennetton this weekend and we’re licking our wounds again,” the Australian said. 

 

“But I know what this team is capable of and I know if we go over there and do what we can do, we can get a performance and a win.”

 

Friend will have some of his Irish international contingent to call upon in Italy, with Mack Hansen and Finlay Bealham available for selection. However, Bundee Aki – who only arrived back to team training on Tuesday – will not play. 

 

“Bundee only just arrived back today(Tuesday), so he won’t be in the reckoning at this stage. The other two boys(Bealham and Hansen) came back in yesterday and trained well with us and looked fresh and good to go. It’s nice to have that calibre of player coming back in.”

 

Meanwhile, loosehead prop Matthew Burke has praised the work of forwards coach Dewald Senekal at Connacht. 

 

The South African was appointed last summer after years of coaching in the French Top 14, where he coached current Connacht player Leva Fifita at Grenoble. 

 

Senekal has put a particular emphasis on the maul – both in attack and defence – and his friendly nature has made it easy for players to communicate with him, says the Mayo native prop. 

 

“I think one thing about him is he’s a very approachable guy, a very friendly guy,” Burke said of the forwards coach. 

 

“That’s really worked well, in terms of bringing us together as a forward pack. We’re very close. He’s targeted certain focus areas, like our maul defence and maul attack, which has been a been big focus for us this season and not conceding tries. “

 

“Every time we review a match, we ask ‘did we concede a maul try?’ and we kind of give ourselves a little pat on the back if we were particularly good at that. The maul would be the biggest change, in terms of where we have targeted something different.”

 

The coming weeks will bring big games – in Europe and domestically – for Connacht and Burke says that the squad are looking forward to the challenges. 

 

“Obviously we are tremendously disappointed with the way that went,” the Ballinrobe man said of last weekend’s defeat to Leinster at the Sportsground. 

 

“At this stage, we’ve just had to park it. We can’t let that bleed in and affect us this weekend. We have reviewed it yesterday, talked a bit about it today and now we’re really focusing on Bennetton. 

 

“Obviously it’s a big game this weekend. Bennetton are obviously a lot stronger than maybe they would have been a couple of seasons ago. They are playing good rugby and they have a lot of internationals in there.”

 

Burke is confident that Connacht have learned from recent defeats and that they can apply these lessons going forward and turn losses into wins. 

 

“We’ve got a number of games over the next few weeks, both the URC(United Rugby Championship) and those two Leinster games in the Heineken Champions Cup, and we’re targeting every game for a win.

 

“Unfortunately, because of results during the season, we have kinda taken things out of hands in terms of how we qualify for the URC, but we’re really just targeting every game we’re going into as a must-win We’re confident. We know what we’re capable of. 

 

“Some of the losses have been hurtful – that loss versus Leinster and the loss to Edinburgh – but we know what we’re capable of and we know what went wrong and how we can fix it, so we’re still confident going forward that we can do really well and finish the season on a high.”

 

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