So here we go with the Anglo-Welsh Cup, but there are only Anglo teams playing this weekend. Here are my predictions for the least loved competition.
First up a couple of house keeping items.
My tournament preview can be found here.
Due to a scheduling conflict with the Pro12 the Welsh will be playing this round of the competition after the next round of the competition. Confusing? Yup, basically I’ll preview this weekend’s games and cover the Welsh ones in a future post.
A quick reminder that this competition can be a bit of a lottery from a picking point of view. Most teams will be using this competition to give fringe players some game time and academy players a feel for first team rugby in front of bigger crowds.
OK so what are you picks for the first round?
Sale Sharks v Wasps
Both these teams have been stretched by the privilege of playing in the Champions Cup. Whilst Wasps have had the better start to the season they lost up here in the league and have yet to win away this season. For that reason I’m going with home advantage and expect the Sharks to win, if this game had been down in London I’d have gone the other way so I’m expecting a close one.
Bath Rugby v London Welsh
Bath have a bit of an injury crisis at the moment and last weekend in the Champions Cup had academy graduate Charlie Ewels at number 8. Fresh from his education by Toulouse Charlie will captain the side this weekend.
Welsh had a torrid time in Europe with two more losses, they will be looking to get some confidence out of the LV= Cup over the next two weekends. With that in mind I wouldn’t be surprised to see a few more of their regular starters on the pitch than Bath put out.
Even with these injuries and the extra strain of the Champions Cup I can see only one winner in Bath.
Exeter Chiefs v Gloucester Rugby
Chiefs are the reigning champions of this cup and will be looking to put in a good showing again. Both these sides have been in Challenge Cup action over the last two weeks and so have had the opportunity to rest players. Still both sides won’t have that many starters out on the pitch due to international call ups and wanting to be ready for the next block of premiership games.
Again I’m going for the home team as Chiefs have a good record against Gloucester and will be in front of their home fans but this is another one that should be close.
London Irish v Leicester Tigers
Final Tigers get to take a breath, with their injuries and Champions Cup commitments I expect them to rest a lot of players. With the except of those that might be coming back from injury I don’t expect to be able to recognise any names on the Tigers team sheet.
Irish have a god academy to call on and have had the opportunity to rest a few players over the last two weeks. So I think that they will just have too much know how for the visiting Tiger cubs.
Northampton Saints v Newcastle Falcons
Falcons are on a run of form that they could only have dreamed of a month ago, 4 wins in 4 games is a great response from them. It goes to show how much confidence and what is going on in the head has to do with this physical game.
The one man team that is George North clearly won’t be playing in this game but Saints do have very good depth in their squad. Last season that carried them all the way to the final and I expect that they will bring Falcons winning streak to an end.
Saracens v Harlequins
Quins finally clicked last weekend and had their best performance of the season. Having said that Saracens clicked the weekend before. Both these squads will be decimated by international call ups and it will be very much the second strings that take to the pitch. Both clubs have good academy structures and the similarities just keep going. I’m going to pop for the home team on their plastic pitch but this is another one that should be close.