Sale Sharks v Northampton Saints
Sale came through a gritty pool featuring two French teams and another English outfit with relative ease, while the Saints did hugely well to end up in the Amlin given their participation in one of the ‘groups of death’ in the Heineken Cup. Sale won this fixture in the Premiership a couple of weeks ago, and have backed that up with an impressive win away at Bath in the league, while the Saints have lost their last three on the bounce. However, both sides have named largely second string line-ups which means this is effectively a test of who has better strength in depth. The Saints certainly seem to have more of that, but home advantage will keep Sale competitive. Saints by 3.
Stade Français v Harlequins
These two have taken contrasting approaches to this one – Stade have made 12 changes to the team that lost the Paris derby, while Quins name a very strong line-up. Morné Steyn retains his place for the hosts, but there is no sign of their French international contingent as they look towards the tough Top 14 run-in. Chris Robshaw returns to the Quins side and forms a mobile flank partnership with Luke Wallace, while Joe Marler makes his 100th appearance for the club after signing a new contract in the week. Playing away in France is never easy, but Quins have already won there against Racing Métro this season and against a second string Stade team, they should have too much. Harlequins by 12.
Bath v Brive
With this game on Sunday neither side has been anounced yet, but with both teams still battling in their domestic leagues, it is likely they will rest some, if not all, frontline players. Last weekend’s loss against Sale aside, The Rec has largely been a stronghold for Bath this season, while they waltzed through their group without losing a game. Brive have upset some big names in the Top 14, but that has largely been at home and their away form is typically French. It’s tough to see this being anything other than a comfortable Bath win. Bath by 20.
London Wasps v Gloucester Rugby
Again, given its falling on the Sunday, neither side has announced their starting line-up yet. Of all the games though, this is the one most likely to contain close to a first XV, with both sides sitting fairly comfortably mid-table in the Premiership. Wasps are in poor form, having won just one of their last seven in the league including three home losses. Conversely, Gloucester have won three of their last four, and will bring vastly more confidence into this one. It’s difficult to pick with any certainty without knowing the teams, as one side could pick a vastly stronger outfit, but provided they both play something close to their first XV, Gloucester should record a second away win on the bounce. Gloucester by 5.
Do you agree? Who do you think will progress to the semi-finals?
By Jamie Hosie
Follow Jamie on Twitter: @jhosie43
Photo by: Patrick Khachfe / Onside Images