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London Irish welcome TOP 14 champions Montpellier Hérault Rugby in the opening game of this season’s Heineken Champions Cup on Friday night.
Irish host the Pool B encounter at Gtech Community Stadium on their return to EPCR’s elite competition after over a decade away, with last season seeing them reach the EPCR Challenge Cup quarter-finals.
Montpellier reached the quarter-finals of last season’s Heineken Champions Cup and currently sit fifth in the TOP 14, while Irish are second-bottom of the Gallagher Premiership.
The game kicks off at 20:00 (UK & Irish time) and is available to watch on BT Sport, beIN SPORTS, SuperSport and FloRugby.
Rob Simmons (London Irish lock): “We understand that it’s huge for the club. To have been out of that and now be seeded at the top table of the top teams is a real challenge. As rugby players, we enjoy challenging ourselves and we get to challenge ourselves against some top, top teams.”
Arthur Vincent (Montpellier Hérault Rugby centre): “We arrive with a lot of humility. We are still small in this competition. The [Heineken] Champions Cup goes faster, hits harder. As soon as a match is lost, qualification becomes complicated. It’s a very high level in all sectors, close to an international Test.”
— Heineken Champions Cup (@ChampionsCup) November 27, 2022
- Of the clubs in last season’s EPCR Challenge Cup, London Irish had the most try-scoring possessions which begun with line outs (16).
- Two profitable periods of the game for the Exiles last season were between 11 and 20 minutes and in the last 10 minutes of the match. In these time brackets, they scored a competition-high five and nine tries in the 2021/22 EPCR Challenge Cup.
- Ollie Hassell-Collins is not only the Gallagher Premiership’s joint-top try scorer this season (eight), but he has also beaten the joint-most defenders (31).
Montpellier Hérault Rugby
- Last weekend, Montpellier Hérault Rugby had a three-match winning streak ended by a 19-14 loss to ASM Clermont Auvergne.
- This season, Montpellier registered a victory over RC Toulon away from home, however, this is one of only two wins in their most recent eight away matches.
- This is the first time that Montpellier have faced London Irish in the Heineken Champions Cup.
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London Irish saw hooker Agustin Creevy sent off as their Heineken Champions Cup return ended in a 32-27 defeat to Montpellier Hérault Rugby at Gtech Community Stadium on Friday.
Tries from centre Thomas Darmon (2), scrum-half Cobus Reinach and flanker Alexandre Becognee, plus 12 points from the boot of fly-half Louis Carbonel, were enough to secure a bonus-point win for the TOP 14 champions.
Irish, who led by 11 points at one stage having crossed through flanker Juan Martin Gonzalez (2) and wing Lucio Cinti Luna, were left with a daunting task after Creevy was show red for a high tackle on 33 minutes.
After a tentative start from both sides, a penalty from fly-half Paddy Jackson opened the scoring for Irish before Carbonel hit back for Montpellier, slotting two from three efforts to put the visitors ahead by 22 minutes.
However, the game swung in Irish’s favour shortly after as Montpellier prop Enzo Forletta was sin-binned for dragging down a maul close to his own line, and Gonzalez then powered over from close range.
A second try came as Irish capitalised on their extra man, with Cinti Luna finishing off a superb move, Jackson’s second conversion moving them 11 points clear.
— Heineken Champions Cup (@ChampionsCup) December 9, 2022
Irish were initially undeterred following Creevy’s dismissal, notching a third try as Gonzalez streaked over in the corner for his second of the evening.
Montpellier ended the half on a high as Reinach sneaked over for their first try of the game, Carbonel adding the extras to reduce the deficit to 11 points once again.
Although Irish enjoyed a promising start to the second half, Montpellier would find a second score on 53 minutes as a slick move put Darmon over out wide, Carbonel converting again.
And the visitors continued to grind Irish down, taking lead through Becognee’s try with just over an hour played before Darmon cruised over for his second of the game.
Irish ensured they took a losing bonus point from the opening round as Rory Jennings slotted a late penalty.
In Round 2 a week on Saturday, London Irish travel to Cape Town to play DHL Stormers at 17:30 (All UK & Irish time), with Montpellier hosting Ospreys at 20:00.