Five takeaways as French clubs flex their depth : PlanetRugby

Following the Investec Champions Cup quarter-final team announcements, here are our takeaways from the squads named.

Brutal Bordeaux without standout stars

Bordeaux have realised their potential this season, with Yannick Bru coming in and taking the club to the threat level their powerhouse squad promised.

A good measure of a world-class team is their ability to perform without their best players, and last time out against Saracens, they proved their status, thrashing the defending Premiership champions without their star playmaker Matthieu Jalibert.

And they will have to do so again without their Les Bleus superstar, who is still sidelined with a troublesome knee injury, but adding to their woes this week is the absence of Damian Penaud.

Penaud beat a mind-blowing 13 defenders against Saracens last week, and while he didn’t cross the whitewash, he was one the French outfit’s most lethal weapons as they cut through the Sarries defensive line.

The competent Pablo Uberti, who is usually a centre, comes in to fill his void on the wing, and while Bordeaux are more than capable of overcoming the absence of their star duo, they will undoubtedly be a bit more blunt in the backs. Thankfully for former hooker Bru, he has built a brutal pack that can offset any shortcomings behind the scrum.

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Harlequins rest veterans

While the Famous Quarters haven’t gone to the same extent as the Bulls – more on that later – in resting their frontline players, the omissions of Danny Care and Joe Marler on the teamsheet were unmissable.

The pair have gone non-stop since the Six Nations and have been carrying niggles while doing so, with director of rugby Billy Millard explaining: “Our club cares deeply about player welfare. Sometimes, for long-term gain, you have to take a short-term hit.”

That long-term gain may be the Premiership’s run-in but could be even longer-term, with Will Porter’s inclusion in the starting XV particularly important in the seasons to come. It is expected that Care will sign another extension to remain at Quins, but eventually, the brilliant half-back who is the heartbeat of the Harlequins’ attack will need to retire or move on.

Porter getting the nod for a big fixture could do his development a world of good, giving him the confidence to press Care further for the rest of the season.

Springbok returns bolster Sharks and Ulster packs for Challenge Cup play-offs

Heavy hitter Will Connors backed over Josh van der Flier

The Leinster coaches made the bold decision to back Will Connors in the starting XV ahead of former World Rugby Player of the Year Josh van der Flier against the French powerhouse La Rochelle in a repeat of the tournament’s last two finals.

There is no doubting Connors’ class, and it certainly indicates as to what the Irish province are expecting from the clash. While both players…

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Read More: Five takeaways as French clubs flex their depth : PlanetRugby 2024-04-12 14:33:33

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