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Rugby union: talking points from the weekend’s European action

La Rochelle shine on the biggest stage, England’s finest freeze and the Welsh dragon roars as crunch time approaches in Champions Cup

Have a side ever taken to Europe as well as La Rochelle? It is supposed to require years of failure and frustration – or experience, as it is known in self-help circles – before a team start to move with confidence in this competition, but there they are, all but qualified for the quarter-finals after 15 points from their first three games. They may yet stumble in the knockouts, but La Rochelle are cruising. Then again, it is proving a disappointing pool otherwise. If English clubs are flopping right, left and centre, Wasps and Quins are as dispiriting examples as any. The latter’s defeat to Ulster followed their heroics the previous week as night does day. Ulster look best placed to mount a case as best runners-up, with home games against Quins and La Rochelle still to come before the pool is decided. Michael Aylwin

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