Back to the Heineken Champions Cup after just 1 week of domestic action. The Rugby World Cup really has condensed this competition and it doesn’t give teams much chance to change plans if things haven’t gone to plan.
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Bath v Clermont Auvergne – Clermont Auvergne by 5
This whole season hasn’t been going to plan for Bath. They are one of the teams that need to concentrate on domestic rugby. That’s ok for them in some ways though as they are effectively out of this competition. Clermont on the other hand are fighting to stay in it and need the win.
Lyon v Benetton Treviso – Lyon by 5
Two sides that have lost their opening two games and so can write Europe off. I’m going with the home side and will probably switch round next weekend for the return fixture. Neither side will be risking any players.
Northampton Saints v Leinster – Leinster by 5
This is a tasty encounter and a real test to see how serious Saints really are as challengers. Leinster have won all their games this season and for that reason I can’t pick against them. However Saints have only lost 1 game this season and look like they can beat anyone when on song.
Ulster v Harlequins – Ulster by 5
I’m starting to believe in Ulster! That’s always a dangerous position to be in however they are delivering the goods so far this season. Quins gave themselves an outside chance by winning last round but I can’t see them putting much effort into this competition. It should be a comfortable home win.
La Rochelle v Glasgow Warriors – La Rochelle by 5
La Rochelle have lost their opening two games and so are only playing for pride and match fitness. Glasgow are another with an outside chance but their form this season has been too up and down. It feels like they have just lost too much quality players over the last couple of seasons.
Ospreys v Racing 92 – Racing 92 by 15
At least Ospreys have an interim head coach who might be around for the rest of the season now. Normal unclear news from Ospreys and that can’t be doing the players any favours. They are having a terrible season and a visit from big spending Racing isn’t going to help.
Munster v Saracens – Munster by 10
Normally we’d be looking at this game being a cracker. However with Saracens points deduction in the Premiership, they will be resting players. It’s a shame that this will probably end up as a comfortable home win rather than the cracking tie it could be.
Gloucester Rugby v Connacht Rugby – Gloucester Rugby by 5
What is going wrong with Gloucester this season? Last year they looked like they were going to push on and become a force but that’s not happened. Connacht have had a good start in both Europe and the Pro14. It does feel though that they are punching a bit above their weight and away ties like this are a big ask.
Toulouse v Montpellier – Toulouse by 7
An all French tie and it’s easy to say “go with the home team”. However Toulouse are looking good now they have their Internationals back. The same can’t be said for Montpellier who might sit fourth in the Top14 but they have looked very up and down. The better team is at home and that means comfortable home win.
Sale Sharks v Exeter Chiefs – Exeter Chiefs by 10
Exeter might have looked vulnerable in the Premiership but Europe has been another matter. There is a feeling that they are really targeting the Heineken Champions Cup after several seasons of under performing. Sale will know that they are a few seasons away from challenging ini Europe and the Premiership has to be their main target. With that in mind I think Exeter will keep a perfect record.
I’m 14 from 20 so far this season. 8 out of 10 in round 2 has helped to improve my % up to 70%.
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