The Heineken Champions Cup kicked off with a bang last weekend. We even had French teams winning away from home!
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Ulster v Clermont Auvergne – Clermont Auvergne by 3
This match will decide who’s in pole position to qualify as the Pool leader. Ulster are looking like they might finally deliver on the promise that they have shown for the last couple of years. This will be a real test of that. Clermont have a really powerful team and I’m not yet convinced by the Irish side’s ability to cope with that.
Benetton Treviso v Northampton Saints – Northampton Saints by 10
Northampton are having a cracking season (and I think we can move on from a cracking start to the season). They are at the top end of the Premiership having scored more points than anyone else. Then they go on to beat the Top 14 table leaders. Benetton on the other hand are struggling to find the form of last season and are struggling to get results.
Saracens v Ospreys – Saracens by 15
Saracens have apparently decided to fully concentrate on domestic matters. Seeing their pool and how they are -22 points in the Premiership that’s not really a surprise. However their visitors are in some really poor form having lost to the Kings 2 weekends ago. Don’t expect the strongest side from Saracens but do expect and easy home win despite that.
Toulouse v Connacht Rugby – Toulouse by 10
We have another match between two sides that got wins on the opening weekend. I didn’t think that Toulouse would get a win away to Gloucester. Maybe their glory days in Europe are coming back? Connacht are difficult to travel to but on the road a much easier prospect so I see a fairly comfortable home win.
Lyon v Leinster – Leinster by 3
Lyon top the Top 14 but are unable to get a point in the Heineken Champions Cup! They have never got even a bonus point. I can’t see them getting their first win against Leinster but maybe, just maybe they can get that first LBP….
Exeter Chiefs v Glasgow Warriors – Exeter Chiefs by 10
Exeter might not have looked that grand in the Premieirshpi so far but they impressed with a TBP win in France last weekend. They’ll know if they can back that up then they have control of the pool. Glasgow will be very aware of that and also fired up to show Stuart Hogg what he’s missing by moving away. Exeter have been trying for a few years to make a dent in Europe though and this feels like the season it could happen.
Munster v Racing 92 – Munster by 5
Munster are going well this season too, not only topping their Pro14 conference but also getting the TBP win. Their pool might not be as much a pool of death now that Saracens are concentrating on domestic matter. Even so Racing put on an impressive performance last weekend to sit about Munster on points difference.
This is a must win game for Munster at home if they are to top the pool. I just think their greater experience in Europe will see them home.
Harlequins v Bath – Harlequins by 5
It feels like Europe is already over for both Quins and Bath after just one game. Bath did pick up the LBP but even so you have to win your home games. Also with these two sides sitting 9th and 8th relegation might be a worry that they need to ease more than fighting a losing battle in Europe. I’m going with the home win in a game that neither side really want to play.
Sale Sharks v La Rochelle – Sale Sharks by 3
It’s a similar tale for Sale and La Rochelle except they are more looking up the table domestically. Having both lost their opening games I think attention will quickly switch to domestic matters. I’m going with the home side as I expect La Rochelle to fly over with a very weak squad.
Montpellier v Gloucester Rugby – Montpellier by 5
Two sides in a now or never situation. Teams that lose their opening two games don’t go well in this competition. At least they both picked up LBPs but they will have to pick up their performances if they are going to go further. You have to say that even though Montpellier haven’t had the best starts they are turning things around. Where as you think Gloucester need more experience at this level. That’s why I’m going with the home side.
I’m 6 from 10 so far this season. Not great as I ended up on the wrong side of too many 50:50 games.
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