The Champions Cup kicks off on Friday in what is always a keenly anticipated weekend in the European club rugby calendar.
Here are five players well worth keeping an eye on.
Garry Ringrose (Leinster)
Robbie Henshaw may be the influential figure in the Leinster midfield, but Ringrose is equally as effective with ball in hand and in defence. The 24-year-old tends to play first receiver to Johnny Sexton, and provides a fresh cutting edge to the Blues’ attack. His slick feet also allows him to evade would-be tacklers and gain extra yardage in a bid to unlock the speed of James Lowe and Jordan Larmour out wide. Ringrose adds serious x-factor and variety in attack and should cause Wasps plenty of problems at The RDS on Friday.
Joey Carbery (Munster)
One of the most exciting names in Johann van Graan’s squad, Carbery has been a totemic presence since making his debut for the Red Army last month. The New Zealand-born player is also an option at 15, but will most likely be playing all his rugby at 10 with one eye on the World Cup next year. And if Munster are to go on to secure success in Europe, Carbery will be at the forefront of their ambitions, with his clever kicking, razor-like passing ability and overall solid game plan all keys to unleashing a stellar Munster back-line.
Joe Cokanasiga (Bath)
At 6’3 and 114kg, the Fiji-born winger has all the physical attributes to make an impact on the continental stage. The 20-year-old has scored three tries from five appearances this season since signing from London Irish, and with Semesa Rokoduguni on the other wing, will give Toulouse’s defence plenty of problems ahead of their opener at the Rec on Saturday. If Cokanasiga can continue his strong early season form, then expect him to be called up to Eddie Jones’ England side before the end of the season.
Finn Russell (Racing 92)
With Patrick Lambie out until November following his knee injury in the Champions Cup final, Russell holds the key to the Parisian dream machine. Racing should coast through Pool 4 relatively unscathed, but this is the perfect opportunity for the Scot to prove his worth as a world-class fly-half in a team of stars. If Leone Nakarawa, Teddy Thomas and Simon Zebo can all stay fit and firing, then the 2018 finalists should be in safe hands as they bid for their first Champions Cup title.
Julian Savea (Toulon)
Perhaps the biggest name to come into European rugby over the summer. With 46 tries in 54 matches for the All Blacks, Savea was on course to becoming one of their greatest ever wingers. But the emergence of Rieko Ioane has meant no game time and he decided to call time on his tenure at the Hurricanes in June. However, his move to Toulon has yet to catch fire, with the French giants winning just twice in their first seven games of the Top14 season. And remarkably, their prized asset has yet to score in six appearances. With Newcastle at home this Sunday, the 28-year-old has the chance to showcase his talents as a real star for Mourad Boudjellal’s side.
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