Early jeopardy in Europe

The new European season is finally here, and while the jury is out on the new format, I think we can all agree that it is much better than the previous three seasons, though I feel nostalgia for the pre-pandemic format may define the season’s discourse.
One feature of Connacht’s fixture list is that the jeopardy is very much front-loaded: the very first night of the tournament will really define how the competition goes. While victory doesn’t guarantee future success, nor does defeat equate to failure, the shape of our engagement with the remainder of the Champions Cup will hinge on this mouthwatering opener.

With the final home game against Bristol deemed eminently winnable, a win in Round One would inspire confidence of progression and even thoughts of a home tie on the round of sixteen, whereas defeat would leave us staring down the barrel of a winless December and potentially duking it out for the consolation Challenge Cup spot on the last day.

The bookies have every home team bar La Rochelle as favourites this weekend, and this trend may well continue. If everyone keeps winning their home games, then anyone who has lost one may find themselves in a spot of bother. Even though you can somewhat bizarrely progress with only one win from four, it will be an uphill fight.

And so, as to who to root for in the other pool games, it really is too early to say, but probably best to default to home wins if Connacht win, as we could potentially top the pool by just sneaking one away win if most of the other results go with home advantage. On the other hand if we lose, a rare home defeat for Bulls might help our cause in what will then be a battle for fourth place.

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