The premier European rugby competition is back. Two more weekends of top class club rugby just before the top european players head off to the 6 nations. Here are my predictions for round 5 of the European Rugby Champions Cup.
If you want a reminder of how things sit here is my review of things after the last round.
Leicester Tigers v Scarlets
Scarlets have done better than I expected in this competition winning their two home games. How ever this weekend they are away to Leicester. Tigers had a hard start to the season but as their players have come back from injury their form has improved. A loss to Quins last weekend wasn’t what the doctor ordered but I still see this as a comfortable home win.
Leicester Tigers win
Saracens v Munster
Saracens host Munster in a must win game and one that will be high on people’s lists to see. Saracens have been at the pointy end of this competition for the last two seasons and whilst they have not been at their best this season have the know how. Munster are also a team with great European pedigree but it’s from longer ago and so I’m going with the English side to get the important points.
Toulon v Ulster
Ulster have had a horrible campaign and it doesn’t get any harder than travelling to the home of the champions of the least two years. Ulster will be concentrating on the Pro12 and so should rest some players, add into that the home advantage and who they are playing and it’s a no brainer. Comfortable home win.
Sale Sharks v Clermont Auvergne
Sale have had a hard time as was to be expected, this will be a great night of rugby in the north west and an opportunity for the fans to see some of the superstars of rugby. Clermont will be looking for 5 points to seal the group and expect them to up the pace in the second half to get that TBP.
Clermont Auvergne win
Leinster v Castres
Castres have pulled themselves off the bottom of the Top14 but are still a long way from safety. With that in mind and that they are already out of this competition it’s going to be a much weakened team traveling to Ireland. With this group being so close, Leinster will be going all out for the TBP so expect a big score if Leinster can get their game going.
Harlequins v Wasps
This could be one of the best games of the round, Quins are starting to find some form with a good victory over Tigers last time out. Wasps have been racking up big scores at home but more importantly picked up their first away victory in the premiership recently. I still think that Quins will win at home but it’s going to be closer that I originally thought.
Glasgow Warriors v Montpellier
Montpellier have had a torrid tournament and are sitting mid table in the Top14. With the Top14 being so congested they are only a win above the relegation places. So again we have team that will be concentrating on the domestic league and sending a weakened side over seas. Glasgow’s chance of qualification are slim but they should get the win here that they need to at least keep it alive.
Glasgow Warriors win
Toulouse v Bath
Bath are flying high in the Premiership and having had a tough start they have pulled themselves back into this competition. They are still a developing squad and this weekend are travelling to european aristocracy. Toulouse are off the pace in the Top14 but still not out of contention. Other sides may prioritise domestic honours but Europe is part of Toulouse’s history and they will going for more than just qualification. Maybe I’m putting too much faith in past performances but I think Toulouse will raise themselves for this game.
Ospreys v Northampton Saints
Saints want to back up their domestic title with success in Europe especially after their loss to Leinster a couple of years ago. Whilst Ospreys are top of the Pro12 they are effectively out of this competition. So I fully expect Ospreys to rest a couple of players and for Saints to get the victory they need.
Northampton Saints win
Racing Metro 92 v Benetton Treviso
The final game of the weekend sees a one-sided affair, Treviso have lost all their games and haven’t even picked up a bonus point. Even in the Pro12 they have only picked up two wins and those were against their Italian compatriots Zebre. Metro will pick up 5 points and keep the pressure up on Saints going into the last round.
Racing Metro 92 win