Yesterday I covered the European rugby challenge cup, today it’s the turn of the senior competition. So here are my predictions for the European rugby champions cup.
It’s been over a month so if you want to remind yourself what happened in the last round, here’s a link to my review.
Just as a reminder we have 2 weeks of european rugby before heading back to domestic matters over Christmas. These two rounds are home and away against the same opposition and really can make or break a campaign.
Montpellier v Bath
Both these team lost their opening two games and so are realistically out of this competition. Montpellier have lost their last three games in the Top14 and they have all been against teams in the bottom half of the table, meaning they have dropped back into mid table. This has led to the forwards coach leaving and the head coach being under pressure.
Bath in contrast are ridding high in the Premiership and have been formidable at home. Their away form though has not been as impressive. So with Bath concentrating on the premiership and playing away, I’m going for the struggling French side to give their coach a boost.
Sale Sharks v Saracens
last year’s finalists, Saracens, were very disappointed to drop points to Munster last time out and will know that they need two victories against Sale to progress. Sale have got their season going over the last few games with the return of a couple of players from injury. I can see Sale resting a player or two, as they are effectively out of this competition and will be wanting to make sure they have their best players for the Premiership. Saracens greater squad depth and experience will get them the much needed away win.
Benetton Treviso v Northampton Saints
The highlight of Treviso’s season so far has been a draw with Leinster, losing all their other games. The only question is how many points Saints score. Northampton just need to remember that you have to earn your win and not to get too fancy too early. This should be a TBP win for Saints.
Northampton Saints win
Ospreys v Racing Metro 92
Ospreys are part of a congested leading group in the Pro12 with only 2 points covering the top 4. They have lost the last two times out but that was away to Leinster and Ulster which are very hard places to go. Racing Metro are also challenging in the Top 14 but blowing a bit hot and cold, beating Toulon but losing to Oyonnax for example. I’m going for Ospreys as they will be desperate to show that Welsh regions can perform in Europe and using the cliché that French teams don’t travel so well.
Munster v Clermont Auvergne
A real clash of the european heavy weights. Munster with their 2 wins from 4 finals and Clermont who have made it to the latter stages the last couple of years. 2009 was the last time Munster made it to the final so it has been a while and they aren’t the team of old. But they do keep kicking whilst being written off by the pundits. Clermont though are a real powerhouse of rugby at the moment and so I’m going to go with the French men (plus friends) to win what should be a really good game.
Clermont Auvergne win
Ulster v Scarlets
Ulster are part of that tight pack at the top of the Pro12 and having lost their first two games in this competition could be forgiven for resting players. Scarlets are having a middling season domestically but did pick up one win in the opening rounds so are in with an outside chance of progressing. When these sides met in Wales for the opening game of the season they drew 32-32, so it’s looking like a close one. I’m going with the home side as I can’t see the Ulster men wanting to lose to their Pro12 rivals what ever the situation in the cup.
Castres v Wasps
Both these teams lost their opening two games and so are playing for pride. Castes are having a torrid time of it this season, sitting bottom of the Top 14. Wasps have been Jekyll and Hyde, winning at home and losing away, which makes this a really hard one to call. I’m going for Wasps to pick up a rare away win as Castres concentrates on domestic matters.
Harlequins v Leinster
A top of the table cash with both sides having won their opening games. The similarities end there though as Quins are stuck in the bottom half of the Premiership and Leinster are just behind the Pro12 leading pack. Quins have not been playing well this season and lack weight in their from five. So I’m going for the European aristocrats to come out on top even if their coach is under some pressure at the moment.
Toulouse v Glasgow Warriors
Another game where both teams have won their opening two games. Glasgow are currently sweeping all before them even if they had a little blip during the internationals. Toulouse are a different story sitting mid table domestically with an even win/loss record. Travelling to France though is always a tough ask especially against the 4 times champions. I think that the home team will take this with their greater European experience.
Leicester Tigers v Toulon
Tigers have had a rough start to this season with injuries but are getting their players back now. The question is going to be how match ready are they? Against the champions for the past two seasons, they are going to lose if they are not on the very top of their game. Toulon are going well, two wins in this competition and top domestically, so it’s hard to look past the French men, plus friends, in this one.
Here is a link to my round 3 Challenge Cup Predictions.