The power of bonus points is seen with Racing 92 ahead of Ulster even though they have drawn a game. The top teams will be fighting it out for a home quarter final and teams such as Saracens aren’t out of the running to qualify yet.
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Racing 92 v Munster Rugby – Racing 92 by 7
This is the kind of game that the Heineken Champions Cup is all about. The big spending Racing taking on Munster who have one of the most storied histories in Europe.
Munster started the season well but have slipped back in the Pro14 recently, with Edinburgh going past them to top Conference B. Sure they have been tough games against Ulster and Leinster over the last couple of weeks. Also the IRFU rules meaning players have had to be rested. Does that mean Munster will come back stronger or is it a real slump?
Racing on the other hand have found some form as Internationals have integrated back into the team. Their last loss was to Bordeaux (Top 14 table leaders) back at the beginning of December.
ASM Clermont Auvergne v Ulster Rugby – ASM Clermont Auvergne by 7
For me this is the game of the round. Clermont were beaten when they went to Ulster last year in a result that shocked most of us. No one has scored more points than Clermont in this competition this season.
Yup it’s a classic irresistible force vrs immovable object as Ulster have the third best defence in the competition. I think that home advantage will mean revenge for the French side.
La Rochelle v Sale Sharks – La Rochelle by 3
It’s a shame that we get games like this that really don’t mean anything now. Both these sides are out of the competition and will be thinking more of their domestic form. With that in mind I think it comes down to home advantage but having seen some of La Rochelle’s results at home I don’t have much confidence in them.
Bath Rugby v Harlequins – Bath Rugby by 3
Another game that doesn’t really matter and again a game that comes down to selection and attitude. Being in-front of your home crowd tends to sort out the attitude side of things. Yup another low confidence home win.
Ospreys v Saracens – Saracens by 20
Saracens might be concentrating on the Premiership to avoid relegation. However Ospreys are poor and it doesn’t really matter what side Saracens put out it should be a comfortable TBP away win. That will keep them in with a chance of qualifying with a home game to come.
If you don’t want uneven contests like this the listen to how the Attacking Scrum and I would fix Europe.
Glasgow Warriors v Exeter Chiefs – Exeter Chiefs by 7
Exeter have finally found their feet in Europe this season. They will be fighting for a high seeding to not only have home advantage but to avoid Leinster for as long as possible.
This on the other hand is a must win game for Glasgow if they are to qualify as a best second place. Glasgow’s form this season has been too in consistent, they are only 5 wins from 10 games in the Pro14.
Connacht Rugby v Toulouse – Toulouse by 3
This is perhaps one of the hardest games to call. Sure there are the games where both teams are out of it and you don’t know who’ll bother to select a decent side. However this isn’t one of those. Connacht have not lost to overseas opposition at home this season. Also they were leading Toulouse 15-17 just after halftime earlier this season.
Toulouse did come back with 17 unanswered points to win that game 32-17 in the end though. Toulouse might have had a poor festive period with a draw against Toulon and losing to Stade. However I think that Europe is something they are targeting and they had been in some right form before that. I’m going with the 4 times Heineken Cup champions in this one.
Gloucester Rugby v Montpellier – Gloucester Rugby by 5
Gloucester have more bonus points (5) than winning points (4) in this competition. It’s crazy to see that 1 win from 4 games sees them in a qualifying position for the quarter finals. Ackermann has said that he will put out a full strength side and whilst you have the opportunity to qualify why wouldn’t you?
I can’t see Montpellier doing the same and that should lead to a comfortable home win.
Northampton Saints v Benetton Rugby – Northampton Saints by 10
Benetton are out of this competition and, as we saw at the weekend with their loss to Glasgow, they really aren’t at last season’s level. It’s a shame as we saw some real improvement from the Italian side.
It looked like the two heavy losses to Leinster had totally derailed Saints season. Then they got a fighting victory away to Wasps last weekend to show there is something about them. Boyd won’t be happy with their disciplin picking up a yellow card not long after a red card for a nervous finish. However the fight they showed will be reassuring for him.
Leinster Rugby v Lyon – Leinster Rugby by 15
Leinster haven’t lost a game all season and that’s not going to change this weekend. A TBP home win is on the cards as they seek the number 1 seed for the knockout rounds. There’s not really much more to say for this one.
I’m 31 from 40 or 78% so far this season. I’m recovering well after a really poor opening round where I got 4 wrong. Since then I’ve only got 5 wrong in the following 3 rounds.
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