Last season’s Heineken Cup finalists Ulster will have the honour of taking the only unbeaten record into this season’s tournament when they kick-off the 18th season of European competition against Castres Olympique at Ravenhill on Friday.
Ulster’s 25-0 home win over Connacht last week made it five from five for the Belfast-based side and kept them one point clear of the early leaders in the RaboDirect PRO12, the Scarlets, with one game in hand.
Top dogs in the Top 14 in France are Toulon, who had 21 points from the boot of Jonny Wilkinson in their 36-9 away win at Biarritz Olympique that moved them four points clear of reigning French champions Toulouse at the top of the table.
Toulon’s only defeat this season was a 32-9 reverse at Toulouse, who have suffered two defeats on the road this season at Perpignan and Biarritz. Toulon kick-off at home against Montpellier, who they beat 32-25 away from home on 14 September.
In England, London Irish dented the hitherto unblemished record of 2011 Heineken Cup finalists Northampton Saints with a morale boosting 39-17 win at the Madejski Stadium at the weekend to peg Saints’ lead at the top of the Aviva Premiership back to two points over reigning champions Harlequins, Leicester Tigers and Saracens.
Top try scorers in Europe to date this season are Toulouse with 26 in eight games. The Scarlets lead the way in the PRO12 with 19 in six outings and Harlequins have 20 from their six games in the Premiership.