We are down to the last round and some interesting games coming up to decide who makes the quarterfinals. Here are my predictions for the sixth round.
First here is a link to my review of action from round 5.
How did the predictions go?
9 out of 10 was a good return and so close to the clean sweep.
Brive v Gloucester Rugby
Brive have shown little interest in this competition and have lost all their games including home and away to Zebre. Gloucester have been the total opposite and are heading for top seed in the quarter finals. All they need is a regulation win nothing fancy like a TBP and they should get that at least.
Gloucester Rugby win
US Oyonnax v Zebre
Oyonnax could sneak into the quarter finals but it’s very unlikely as it would need a number of upsets. Even so French teams don’t like losing at home and so I see Oyonnax doing the double over Zebre. Zebre can’t qualify so will be concentrating on getting second last in the Pro12. Why second last? Because that should get then above Treviso and into the Champions cup.
US Oyonnax win
Edinburgh v Bordeaux Begles
Edinburgh’s lack of bonus points is really hurting them. A loss last weekend means that if they lose again they will go from unbeaten to not qualifying. Bordeaux have dragged themselves back into contention with some help from their countrymen. In the end though how seriously are Bordeaux going to take this game? I think that they will rest players for the Top14 and Edinburgh, who have not got a chance of winning the Pro12, will go all in.
Rugby Rovigo v London Irish
Rovigo fell to a massive defeat last weekend and can’t be relishing the visit of Irish who are fighting for the top spot in the group. This is a five pointer for Irish and the only question is how many.
London Irish win
Grenoble v Cardiff Blues
Grenoble are out of the competition and their only wins have been against the semipro Rovigo. Again they will rest players for the Top14 and Cardiff should be easy winners. Cardiff need to remember that you need to build the win and not go for the TBP too early.
Cardiff Blues win
Newport Gwent Dragons v Stade Francais
This was one of two games that I found really hard to pick. Stade should be concentrating on Top14 matters. They are a french side travelling and so history tells us they will pick a weakened side and lose. However Dragons beat Stade at home and how much wounded pride is there? I’m still picking Dragons as this is their big competition as they have no Pro12 aspirations, but it’s not with a lot of confidence.
Newport Gwent Dragons win
Bucharest Wolves v Newcastle Falcons
Falcons had a shocker last weekend but a 5 pointer here will still see them qualify. It’s the same situation that Cardiff find themselves in that they have to take the game seriously and not have any complacency. I hope that Wolves have enjoyed the experience and learned from it to come back next year a little stronger.
Newcastle Falcons win
Exeter Chiefs v Bayonne
Exeter put their poor domestic run behind them to take control of the group. Bayonne are another side that can’t qualify and will be concentrating domestic matters. So a weakened team will cross the channel and Exeter will be pushing for as many points as possible to secure a home quarterfinal.
Exeter Chiefs win
La Rochelle v Connacht Rugby
La Rochelle are another team that can’t qualify and will have Top14 in the back of their minds. The difference here is that they are at home and French teams don’t like losing at home. However I don’t think that they will put out a strong enough side to trouble Connacht. Connacht are doing well in the Pro12 and if they rest players they might come unstuck. So this is the second one I’m not fully confident with as I don’t know what side Pat Lam will select.
Connacht Rugby win
London Welsh v Lyon
Lyon did Bordeaux a favour last weekend but inflicting the first defeat on Edinburgh, this though is away and so a different prospect. However Welsh have not had a victory all season and are the only side not to have a bonus point. So I have to go with an away win.
Hoo Boy! It’ll be disappointing for Zebre supporters and for Italian rugby supporters in general if Zebre come second last, I reckon – if it’s only another Italian team below them. At least, it should be! The least (the very least) we should be hoping for, is to finish above a Welsh, Irish or Scottish team. It’s been 5 years since Italy joined the Celtic League and while the number of Champions Cup wins has stayed about the same over 5 seasons (comparing periods pre- and post- Celtic League entry) the number of Challenge Cup wins has declined significantly (from 19 to 7 off the top off my head). So we need to see some signs of progress.
I totally agree that we should be seeing signs of progress but we don’t seem to be. It’s not that long ago I was saying Treviso are hard to visit than their reputation but they have regressed. Zebre were supposed to be the better performing side this season but they find themselves last in the table.
The collapse of a franchise and starting again with Zebre hasn’t helped but we should be seeing signs of progress. Do they need to go down the route of only selecting players from Italian sides for the national team to bring their best players home? Having only two sides and limited finances makes it difficult but Argentina are making noises that they will only select players who play for their one new Super Rugby franchise. Personally I can’t see that working though.