At last we are into the knockout stages of the European Cups. This is when sides start to take the Challenge Cup seriously as it is a way to qualify for the Champions Cup. There will still be sides though who see domestic leagues as more important and so we might still have some players rotated. Here are my predictions.
My 30 second one line predictions, the full predictions are written below.
Sale Sharks v Montpellier
This is the most intriguing game of the round and that is shown in the Twitter voting. Sale are the only side that haven’t been beaten at home all season. That record gets challenged by Montpellier who are sitting second in the Top 14. I would have thought that Sale would rest some players as they have to catchup their postponed game with Bath next week and are challenging for the top 6 in Aviva Premiership. Diamond has said he is not resting players though. Will Montpellier think that their domestic challenge is more important? Maybe but even if they do bring their first choice side I’d back Sale at home this season.
Sale Sharks by 3
Gloucester Rugby v Newport Gwent Dragons
For these two sides this tournament is their best or only chance of getting something out of this season. Gloucester come into this season with lots of hope but that has fizzled out but this competition is one that they go well in. The Dragons have been poor again this season and sit just above the Italian teams in the Pro12. Add to that a poor traveling record and this all points to a comfortable home win.
Gloucester Rugby by 10
Harlequins v London Irish
Both these sides must be tempted to rest players for this game. Quins still have an outside chance of making the Aviva Premiership playoffs and need to defend their top 6 position. For Irish their entire season could be defined by next weekend’s relegation battle with Falcons. So this could be two B sides going head to head and even if not I still can’t see Irish overcoming Quins at home.
Harlequins by 10
Grenoble v Connacht Rugby
The other intriguing game is Grenoble who are mid table in the Top 14 against Connacht who are sat second in the Pro12. This has to be Connacht’s secondary priority and a chance to rest anyone with a niggle. For Grenoble this is their better chance of Champions Cup rugby and that along with home advantage should carry them home to a narrow victory.
Grenoble by 3
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