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

A night to forget in Newcastle as Connacht leave Kingston Park empty handed in the Challenge Cup.

Heading into the game Connacht had the potential of playing home games in the knockout stages of the competition but those dreams were wiped away after a 35-21 defeat to Newcastle Falcons.

It was a nightmare start in the North East of England with the home side getting three tries in the opening 20 minutes. Micky Young with the first in the third minute before Matias Orlando in the tenth and Tian Schoeman in the 19th which had Falcons 21-0 up.

Nine minutes into the game Connacht were down to 14 men when Byron Ralston was sent to the sin bin.

Midway through the first half though Connacht got themselves back into the game. Finlay Bealham with his first of three tries in the 21st minute after squeezing over with a penalty advantage as Newcastle made a mess of the restart after their try

Seven minutes later Finlay got his second when he drove over the line. Conor Fitzgerald scored his second conversion to bring the men in green to within a converted try of the hosts.

With the score being 21-14 at half-time Connacht needed to make the brighter start in the second forty. Two minutes in however it was Newcastle who got their fourth try of the game from Josh Barton who took advantage of some poor tackling.

Connacht needed the next score and they got it, after a few close drives in the build up Finlay completed his hat-trick, Fitzgerald added the conversion to make it 28-21 with 54 minutes on the clock.

Unfortunately for Connacht though that was as close as they got with Pete Lucock getting the fifth Falcons try before Josh Thomas converted to finish the scoring at 35-21.

The result means Connacht will now play Benetton away in the last 16.

With two wins from two in this seasons Challenge Cup Connacht will look to keep their 100% record going this weekend as they face Brive at The Sportsground on Saturday.

Last Saturday saw Connacht beat South African side Sharks in the URC and getting a bonus point win. Speaking ahead of the European tie this weekend Connacht Director of Rugby Andy Friend spoke about the mood in the camp this week.

“With the conditions we had it was lovely to get the win but the bonus point as the name suggests was a bonus” said Friend

“Its very hard to play rugby in those conditions”

“All the scores were slightly different and as a team we felt there was a lot of areas there that we were really happy with coming off the field”

“Our defence was brilliant with a 91% success rate which is the level we’re at and need to keep at”

“Its a happy camp heading into this weeks game but as always we have things to work on”

With everything to play for in both competitions for Connacht Andy feels now is where the squads depth will be really tested especially with a few injuries mounting up.

“Both competitions are important to us and both are still alive, it is good to be back in the Challenge Cup as we are two from two so we would like to continue that momentum”

“In terms of our squad I think the rotation has worked well for us by keeping players fresh”

“We have a few injuries mounting up so we are probably forced to make a couple of changes”

Brive have been in good form of late with three wins from their last three games but with two defeats in the Challenge Cup already questions will be asked about their commitment and if that seeps into the Connacht players mind that this could be an easy day out.

“I think we faced that last week against the Sharks as there was a lot of talk about them resting some of their big players but at the end of the day it was still a Sharks team and we had to be ready” said Friend

“It will be the same for Brive this weekend, post our last game with them they have beaten Clermont, Lyon and Toulon”

“They’re playing good footie and finding that winning mentality and they will be coming here wanting to turn the table on us”

It was announced this week that Connacht’s Attack and Skills coach Mossy Lawler is heading to Munster at the end of the season. The departure will see two of Connacht’s coaching setup leave with this season being Andy Friend’s final season with the province.

“Mossy has been brilliant during his time here at Connacht” said Friend

“As we know he’s a Limerick man, his family is in Limerick so its great he can be closer to his wife and kids”

“I’m pleased for Mossy that he has this opportunity to move home”

“He will be missed here no doubt about that”

“In terms of the wider coaching ticket there’s a process in place at the moment and I have no doubt it will be a strong coaching ticket next year”

Tickets for Saturday’s game available HERE

Connacht are back in Challenge Cup action this weekend as French side Brive come to The Sportsground for Round 3.

This game won’t be televised but you can purchase your tickets right HERE

In his first year with Connacht Rugby Byron Ralston has had to adapt to a lot of new things coming from Australia, one of those things being the weather here in the west of Ireland and particularly the recent wet weather we’ve been having.

“Every day I wake up and wonder is it going to be sunny but slowly I am getting used to it”

“It is taking a bit of time to adapt to it, I always turn to Mack or Porchy and say is it always like this”

Competition for places in the Connacht midfield is very competitive with the likes of Cathal Forde, David Hawkshaw and Tom Farrell to name a few.

“There’s some serious energy around the group and when you look at the roster and see the names you know going into every training session you need to be on your game”

“There’s real depth here and lads are pushing each other to improve”

“You’ve got Bundee, Tom Daly, Shayne Bolton and Shane Jennings as well”

“I think it puts us in a good position having all these players fighting for the two jersey”

The challenge now turns to Brive this Saturday after last weekends bonus point win over the Sharks. Coming into the game Byron sees a few similarities from the Sharks and Brive.

“It was good to see our forwards perform well against a strong South African side and Brive will be the same” said Ralston

“It was a tough encounter playing Brive over in France, it wasn’t as hostile as we thought it might be but the main thing is we got the win leaving there”

“It was a really physical game and the Sharks brought that as well on Saturday so it was a good test coming into this one”

“We’re just looking to play the Connacht brand of rugby so whatever Brive bring we’ll be ready”

“We want to move the ball and play fast so let Brive work on us and we’ll do our bit around them but the main thing for us is playing our type of game”

Questions marks may be around Brive as to how committed they are to the Challenge Cup but Byron knows Connacht can’t go into the game with a mindset thinking they have to just show up.

“We’re excited for Saturday’

“We want to get the five points as we know how important every point is as we get closer to the knockout stages”

“Playing on front of our fans adds to that excitement, last weekend conditions weren’t great but they still came out to support us and no doubt they will do the same again”

“Fans play such an important part in every game and we’re lucky we have great supporters”

“Whatever mindset Brive are in come Saturday is no concern of ours, we have to get our own house in order and do what we need to do”

The Connacht team for Saturday will be announced on Friday.

It’s back to European Rugby this Saturday as we welcome French side CA Brive to The Sportsground for Round 3 of the Challenge Cup.

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

When’s the game?

Kick-off is 5.30pm on Saturday 14th January.

What’s the state of play so far?

After two wins from two in their opening Round games of Europe Connacht find themselves in a great position to make the knockout stages of the tournament. Last weekend in the URC Connacht beat the Sharks at home 24-12.

Brive are in good form of late having won their last three games in the Top 14 including a 26-17 win over Toulon last weekend.

How’s our recent record against them?

Our last meeting against Brive was back in December where Connacht won 31-24.

  • Bri 24-31 Con
  • Con 55-10 Bri
  • Bri 31-38 Con

How will the two teams line up?

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

How do I get tickets?

Tickets available HERE

What channel is it on?

TV viewing on EPCR TV and Galway Bay FM have live radio commentary.

Connacht are on the road this week as they travel to France to take on CA Brive this Friday at the Stade Amedee-Domenech in Round 2 of the Challenge Cup, kick-off is 8pm Irish time.

Connacht Director of Rugby Andy Friend was speaking ahead of the game where he discussed last Saturday’s win over Newcastle Falcons at The Sportsground.

‘It was a game where I thought our tenacity and physicality shone through which was pleasing”

“They were a tough side and you know when you are playing an English side that they are going to be big and physical and Newcastle brought were”

“In the end we were happy with the overall all performance”

The attitude from the players this season have been pleasing for Andy and the coaching team but as a whole the squad are still aiming to play their best game.

“I think with each game that goes by there’s a strong belief in our identity which is that never say die attitude” said Friend.

“I know we still need to be better at finishing off some of those opportunities we get”

“We still haven’t played our best game yet but our forward pack continues to grow, defensively we’ve worked really hard so things are coming together and more consistency is showing”

Last Saturday saw some new faces get game time and ahead of this Friday there’s a chance of seeing more change.

“We have good competition for selection this week”

“It was great seeing the likes of Cathal Forde out at the weekend, Oisin McCormack got his first cap and did very well and no doubt you will see a few different names and faces this weekend too”

This Friday its the challenge of Brive in France. French sides at home are always a tough opposition to face but after their heavy defeat to Cardiff last weekend in Wales could Brive have their minds solely on domestic rugby now?

“It will be interesting to see what team they put out”

“We know on the road French sides tend to take it a bit easier with their selection but at home they are very proud of their record so we want to go over there and play against their best side to test ourselves”

The Connacht team for Friday will be announced this Thursday.

Connacht began their Challenge Cup campaign with a 22-8 win over Newcastle Falcons tonight at The Sportsground with tries from Paul Boyle, Adam Byrne and Diarmuid Kilgallen.

Speaking after the game was Connacht’s Director of Rugby Andy Friend.

“We’re happy with the win”

“It was a pretty physical affair which is always the case against Premiership sides”

“14-8 at half-time and held them scoreless in the second half which was good”

The first half was a scrappy one from Connacht’s point of view but the second half was one which Connacht really took control of which pleased Friend.

“It was pleasing to see how we played in the second half as we talked during the break about using being us as we didn’t really deliver in that first half”

“Our line speed could have been better and defensively we could have been better but in the second half we were better at that”

“I thought across the course of the game our set piece once again did well”

Coming up against any forward pack from the Premiership is going to be a tough one but Andy was pleased with how his side fronted up.

Adam Byrne made his first Connacht start tonight and he made a huge impact with a fantastic try int he first half.

“I thought he did really well tonight” said Friend

“He was great under the high ball and had good defensive reads”

“The try came out of nothing, he was dancing around and then pops out of a gap and scores a brilliant try”

“I’m really pleased for him tonight with his display”

Tonight also saw the introduction of Ballinasloe man Óisín McCormack who made his first cap for Connacht tonight.

“A lot of the home grown were on show tonight”

“I thought Niall Murray was a beauty tonight”

“Caolin got player of the match which was deserved as he was outstanding”

“When Colm Reilly came on for Bladey he played well with a couple of nice line breaks”

“Oisin came on, got a really good steal and didn’t let the occasion get to him as he played”

“It’s great to see all these lads come through”

Next up for Connacht is a trip away to Brive next Friday in France.

European Rugby is back and we kick start our Challenge Cup campaign at home to Newcastle Falcons this Saturday at The Sportsground.

Ahead of the weekends game, Connacht Rugby scrum and contact coach Colm Tucker spoke about the mood in the camp heading into such a big game after last weekends win over Benetton.

“It was a very tough game and was never going to be easy considering the quality of the Benetton squad”

“I thought we played some really good rugby, albeit inconsistently”

“There’s a lot to work on but we were very pleased with the win and to get the five points and come into this weekend with a spring in our step”

While the Champions Cup is the big prize in European rugby, the Challenge Cup brings an array of opportunities for all the teams playing in it.

“Playing in this tournament is a great challenge, we know its not the Champions Cup but there are some brilliant teams in this competition”

“We’re very excited to welcome Newcastle this Saturday and we’re excited to go to Brive next weekend”

“The last number of rounds in the URC we’ve been very good but its a change of focus for us now”

“It’s always exciting to play teams outside of the URC where you test yourself against teams from the Premiership and Top 14”

“This is a tournament we will be taking week by week”

“We aren’t looking past Newcastle and we want to start off the tournament with a win”

The Connacht team will be selected on Friday which Colm spoke about the competition for places when it comes to the starting 15.

“There’s healthy competition for places in this squad for this weekend”

“We have a few internationals away on holidays this week so it does open up to the squad”

“As coaches we know we need to manage the lads throughout the season”

“Its something maybe last year towards the end of the season where guys were a bit banged up so we’re very focused on that this year in terms of managing loads”

“You will probably see some old faces mixed with new faces out there this weekend which is very positive for us”

As Newcastle come to town, it’s a new opponent to the regular URC sides that Connacht come up against every year. What does the Connacht coach expect to see from the English side?

“They have very creative launches, they have good half-backs and real pace out on the wings” said Tucker

“We will need to look at how we nullify them at launch time”

“Our breakdown has to be good as well as their defensive breakdown is one of the best in the Premiership”

This season Colm is in a new role with Connacht moving to scrum and contact coach where he said he’s enjoying every minute of it.

“I was raised around the scrum and contact area, scrummaging is one of my favourite elements of the game”

“Some people like to watch players running up the wing whereas I like to watch scrummaging”

“The other coaches have been great and have allowed me the time I need with the pack”

English clubs are in a dark place at the moment from what we’ve seen with Wasps and Worcester over the last few months but there’s no relegation in the Premiership this year which may focus English teams minds more on winning the Challenge Cup.

“Yeah they might and the fact its the first game as well means Newcastle will look to send a fully loaded side over here”

“We’re expecting a huge challenge but also a very good game of rugby with the way they approach games

Get your tickets for Saturday’s game at The Sportsground right HERE

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