With only one of the groups decided there are plenty of games that matter this week mixed among the dead rubbers. Here are my predictions for the last round of group games in the LV=CUP.
First here is my review of round 3.
How did the predictions go from last week?
5 out of 8, it started well with the first 4 games going as predicted but then the wheels came off.
Sale Sharks v Scarlets
This is one of the dead rubbers that I mentioned above with only pride to play for. It is difficult to know what teams will be fielded. It’s back to Pro12 and Aviva Premiership next weekend, some teams use this to get players back up to speed.
So far this season a key barometer of how Sale are going to perform has been if their captain has played. They more than most teams appear to be reliant on having certain players on the pitch.
Last weekend was also a dead rubber for Scarlets but they fought hard and got the victory. With last weekend’s performance in mind and an expectation that Sale will rest key players, I think this will be an away victory.
Cardiff Blues v Leicester Tigers
Both these sides top their groups but still need the win to guarantee that they qualify for the quarter finals. Interestingly the two teams that are chasing them are also facing off. With internationals missing etc… it’s a hard one to call so I’m going with home advantage on the G4 pitch.
Bath Rugby v Ospreys
Ospreys have no chance of qualifying and will be fully focused on the Pro12 where they are top of the table. Bath are still involved domestically and in Europe so you would think this was a distraction. However with their internationals away last weekend they came up with the win and they have been impressive at home so I’m going with home win.
Gloucester Rugby v Harlequins
Gloucester need Saracens to lose at the already qualified Exeter, to have a chance of going through. But that is more chance than Quins have, who have had a tough season so far. For Quins it’s all about the Aviva Premiership and trying to get into the playoffs. For Gloucester they are fighting on all fronts, even if Aviva Premiership playoffs look out of reach there is always Europe to qualify for. It means more to Gloucester and so I’ll go with the home team.
London Irish v Newcastle Falcons
This is another of the dead rubbers and could come down to who doesn’t want it the least. The thing that does add something to this game is that these two teams are fighting it out at the bottom end of the table. Also they still have to meet again this season. I’m backing an away win on this one. Irish appear to be looking towards next season and restarting where as Falcons look to be aiming to build on this season.
Northampton Saints v Wasps
Both these teams can qualify but need the Blues v Tigers games to go their way. On top of that Wasps will need the TBP where as the situation with Saints is more complicated. Basically if Saints don’t get the TBP it comes down to tries scored and maybe points difference then red cards then a coil toss.
Anyway to this game, both teams are still in Europe and fighting it out on the domestic front so will want to rest players. With Saints being more affected by internationals and Wasps on a roll I’ll backing an away win but I expect this one to be close.
Dragons v London Welsh
Whilst Dragons are technically not out of the competition it will take 3 other results to go their way. Then it comes down to the tie breakers as they can only get on equal points with Saracens. So they aren’t going to qualify making this another dead rubber.
Welsh are bottom of the Aviva Premiership with no wins this season. Dragons are only above the Italian teams in the Pro12 but have qualified in Europe. So it’s a home win with Dragons showing better form.
Saracens v Exeter Chiefs
The final game of the weekend is top of pool 1 v top of pool 4. Saracens have teams chasing them so they have to win to guarantee qualification. Exeter have already qualified mainly due to the other teams in the pool performing badly. Exeter are on the same points as Tigers and Blues, so home quarter finals might be up for grabs. I have not been able to find out how the home quarter finals are decided.
Note: It’s been confirmed that home quarter finals are decided on points scored so Exeter do have plenty to play for.
Anyway to this game, both teams are impacted by international call ups and are fighting on in Europe and domestically. So this is a distraction for both teams, I think it’s a toss up. Saracens are at home where as Chiefs tend to field a near full strength side before going back into Aviva Premiership games. I’m going with the home team but not with any confidence.