The European Rugby Champions Cup might not be as catchy as the Heineken Cup but it’s keeping the tradition of good rugby and fascinating competition alive. Here are my predictions for the fourth round.
How did the predictions go last weekend?
6 out of 10 doesn’t sound great but there was a draw and some upsets, so not such a bad result, especially as I managed to call a couple of the upsets.
Bath Rugby v Montpellier
Bath registered a very good win last weekend over in France. That means Montpellier aren’t going to qualify and so I would expect them to send a second string side. I would have backed Bath in this game anyway, as they have been magnificent at home this season. My only worry is hearing that Burgess is to start in only his 3rd game for the club. As this is a bit of a dead rubber I can kind of understand it but it still feels very early.
Glasgow v Toulouse
Glasgow only conceded 3 points when they had all 15 men on the field last weekend. So even though they lost, if they can clean up their discipline, then they know they can win this. Toulouse will be well up for this game as a win should give them the group and quarter final qualification. So this will be a very tough game, even so I’m going for the home team.
Northampton Saints v Benetton Treviso
One of the easier ones to call as Saints won by 13 points last weekend and Treviso are having a horrible season with no wins so far. It will be a TBP and the only question is how many points?
Toulon v Leicester Tigers
Toulon were livid to have lost last weekend, clearly there was Castro’s outburst but also investigations into Delon Armitage swearing at spectators. As the winners from the last 2 seasons they aren’t used to losing and will be looking for revenge. For Tigers it was their best performance this season, helped by the return of some of their top layers from injury. They will want to build on that and be happy they got under Toulon’s skin but I can’t see them winning.
If Tigers are going to win then they are going to need big performances such as Ayerza’s from last weekend which was beautifully analysed by Rugby World.
Racing Metro v Ospreys
A late try meant Ospreys got a share of the points last weekend. That means Racing know they need the win this weekend to maintain their challenge. At the moment they are even on points with Saints, but Saints should pick up another 5 points this weekend. So I expect Racing to win at home, well kind of at home as they are playing in Le Mans.
Saracens v Sale Sharks
Sale were always underdogs to get anything out of this competition, they did push Saracens close but now have no chance of qualifying. Saracens on the other hand expect to do well in this competition and know that another win is the least they need to qualify. So at home on the plastic pitch I can only see Saracens winning again.
Leinster v Harlequins
Quins had their best game of the season and it produced much gushing on twitter from their fans who had been getting despondent with Quins play. Considering Quins domestic problems it’s surprising to see that they are one of only two teams with a perfect record in this competition. Leinster know that they are still on track for qualification either as winners or best second place. But they will be looking to win to get a home quarterfinal and I think they will manage it.
FYI The Score had a good analysis of Leinster’s play last weekend.
Wasps v Castres
Wasps got their first away win of the season in France last weekend with a convincing 15 point margin. It makes this one easy to call, Castres can’t qualify, are bottom of the Top14 and Wasps have a good home record.
Clermont Auvergne v Munster
Munster lost to a French team at home for the first time last weekend and it’s only their 3rd loss at home in the top-tier European competition. The Score have again done a good analysis piece on Munster and it’s clear that Clermont had done their homework. Munster will change things up and make it harder and Clermont’s home record isn’t as amazing as it was a season or two ago. Even so it is still a very hard place to visit and I can’t see Clermont losing in front of their own fans.
Scarlets v Ulster
With Tigers taking points off Toulon and the reverse expected to happen this weekend, Ulster’s win over Scarlets got them back into this competition. Scarlets are probably out of it now as they have not been able to pick up any bonus points. With Ulster having more to play for, I think they will take the win. Even though Ulster are away it’s two Pro12 teams playing each other, so they will know the venue well.