Power Ranking Europe's Top 10 Rugby Clubs

Danny CoyleFeatured Columnist IIAugust 24, 2016

Power Ranking Europe's Top 10 Rugby Clubs

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    We’re just two weeks away from the start of the Heineken Cup. And while the Irish and Welsh giants fly under the radar, the power rankings are dominated by the clubs from England and France that are already rolling out their heavy artillery

    The upper echelons of both divisions are beginning to be shaped by familiar sides as, early season rust is shaken off. Although in France, some established names are still receiving bloodied noses from unlikely sources.

    Glasgow hang on to the top ten by virtue of an impressive winning start to the season. But their days on this list could be numbered once the likes of Leinster and Munster start flexing their muscles in Europe.

10. (Last Week: 10) Glasgow, PRO12

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    Glasgow’s winning start continued after a 24-14 win against a resilient Zebre side, which was fired up by its shock win over the Blues.

    After an hour, Gregor Townsend’s men looked comfortable at 24-3, with two tries from Byron McGuigan. But the Italians scrapped their way back into the contest with late scores from Leonardo Sarto and Samuela Vunisa.

    The Warriors continue to beat the sides put in front of them. And before Europe provides a true test of how far they have come, their next matchup (The Scarlets) will challenge their league leading status.

     

9. (2) Montpellier, Top 14

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    Montpellier dropped down the rankings after losing to Stade Francais, but they hang on to top four status in the Top 14.

    They have proved they can mix it with the big boys in France, but they need to show greater consistency in order to become a mainstay among the European elite.

    The Irish and Welsh established powers will be loading their lineups with their front line troops when pool pay begins in the Heineken Cup. Can Montpellier’s promising start continue?

    Much of that will depend on the form of Francois Trinh-Duc (pictured), who provided their only try against the league leaders.

8. (New Entry) Clermont Auvergne, Top 14

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    The men from the Massif Central recovered from last week’s hammering by Montpellier, to climb to second place in the table behind Toulon.

    They meted out their own thumping with a 40-11 beating of Union Bordeaux-Begles. This was aided by three yellow cards for the visitors towards the end of the contest, bringing the total card count to a whopping seven for the game.

    Big guns Napolioni Nalaga (2), Sitiveni Sivivatu and Lee Byrne all crossed the whitewash—a nice warm up with the Heineken Cup just two weeks away.

7. (7) Ospreys, PRO12

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    The other unbeaten side in the PRO12 turned in a dominating away performance, whipping Connacht 43-26.

    Dan Biggar passed the 1,000-point mark as Steve Tandy’s side racked up six tries in Galway. And with three of their four wins coming away from home, the star-studded region look set for a strong challenge this season.

    They host Ulster on Friday before getting their Heineken Cup campaign under way against Leinster—a clash that could somewhat shift things around in the Top 10.

6. (New Entry) Northampton Saints, Premiership

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    George North bagged his first try at Franklin’s Gardens on Friday night in a comfortable romp over Sale.

    The Saints oozed power and panache to surge into a 19-0 lead. And they had a bonus point inside the hour with a try for Lee Dickson off the back of a bludgeoning rolling maul.

    The disappointment of last week's last-minute defeat to Gloucester was well and truly buried in this contest with a physical performance. One that was led by No. 8 Sam Dickinson, who spent his first season as a Saint on the sidelines with a broken arm. But he wasted little time making up for that lost year

    Away trips on consecutive weekends to Leicester and Castres will test their mettle.

5. (7) Toulouse, Top 14

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    Defeat for the Toulousain in Perpignan was confirmed by a James Hook drop goal that extinguished their hopes of a comeback.

    The Catalans’ 17-6 second half lead was threatened by a try from Sébastien Bézy and a penalty and conversion from Luke McAlister. But Hook kept the fifth-placed Toulouse at bay with his three pointer at the death.

    The three-time European champions will be looking to re-state their domestic ambitions against first-placed Stade Francais at home on Saturday.

4. (2) Toulon, Top 14

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    The Heineken Cup champions slip from No. 2 this week after falling the latest victim to Top 14 new boys Oyonnax.

    An 80th minute drop goal from fly half Benjamin Urdapilleta sealed a 25-22 win for the Minnows, with 18 of Toulon’s points coming from Jonny Wilkinson.

    Wilko’s troops have a tough few weeks ahead of them.

    First, they host Clermont at the Stade Felix-Mayol on Saturday, then they kick off Heineken Cup action against Glasgow visiting Cardiff. And five days later, they visit Cardiff.

     

3. (4) Leicester, Premiership

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    There are few tougher places to play in other than Exeter’s Sandy Park to prove your title-challenge credentials. And the Tigers picked their biggest forward pack of the season so far to combat Exeter’s strength up front.

    Matching the Chiefs pound for pound paid off when the home side, woeful for the entire first half, were forced to play wider and gifted Tigers centre Vereniki Goneva an interception try from which they would never recover.

    The top three in England are already looking like permanent residents, and next week’s Midlands clash between Leicester and Northampton could go a long way to deciding who will give Saracens the toughest run for top spot.

2. (5) Stade Francais, Top 14

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    The Parisians sit atop the table in France after nullifying the same Montpellier side that rode roughshod over Clermont last week.

    Julien Dupuy notched three penalties and a conversion, and Rabah Slimani and Jules Plisson each scored tries. Stade seem to be made of sterner stuff these days.

    Shorn of the plethora of stars they used to parade but led as always by the outstanding Sergio Parisse (pictured), their more uncompromising style is bearing early season fruit.

1. (1) Saracens, Premiership

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    In the crunch London derby in the Premiership with Harlequins it was Saracens who came out on top and maintained the league’s only 100 percent record.

    Sarries have bolstered their offensive repertoire to add more variation to their points of attack. And, allied to their raw power up front, they seem to have everything in their arsenal to challenge teams across the board this season.

    With wings David Strettle and Chris Ashton hungry to get into the thick of the action at every available opportunity, fly-half Owen Farrell has runners on both shoulders looking to carve the opposition up once his uncompromising pack of forwards have established momentum.

    Both players did this to good effect against Harlequins on Saturday, with Ashton finishing off a phase given its momentum by a strong burst from Strettle.

    The red and black machine is purring nicely.

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