Heineken Cup 2012/13: Pool Winner Predictions

Leinster

While the build up to this season’s Heineken Cup has focused on bureaucrats costing up its future, the time has now come for the world’s best club competition to show just why its potential demise has sparked such a furore.

Round one kicks off on Friday night with the Ospreys welcoming Treviso and Ulster hosting Castres but the tie of the weekend comes on Sunday, as the Tigers travel to French giants Toulouse.

Will Leicester roar as they lick their wounds from last season’s 41-7 exit, or will the Toulouse showmen put the Tigers back in their cage?

One thing for certain is that this season’s competition will provide a climax to the financial wriggle and discussion which has been tarnishing the game. The Irish will be hoping to keep their hands on the trophy, the French will be seeking their first victory since 2010, the English since 2007 and the Welsh, Scottish and Italian since, never.

Pool 1
Teams: Edinburgh, Munster, Racing Metro, Saracens
Rundown: Arguably the tightest group of the round. Munster are a team in transition and cannot continue to rely on late Ronan O’Gara showdowns while Edinburgh could struggle to repeat their heroic run of last season. Saracens were the only English side to qualify from the group stage in 2011/12 and their match-winning nous could see them grind their way through once again.
Winner: Saracens

Pool 2
Teams: Leicester, Ospreys, Toulouse, Treviso
Rundown: The clash between Leicester and Toulouse is one of the ties of the group stage. Toulouse have scored points aplenty in the Top 14 while Leicester have struggled to raise their game against the bigger Premiership sides this season: Toulouse to edge it. Ospreys will be no pushover but a Tigers side still teeming from last season’s defeat to Ulster should have enough about them to go through as one of the best runners-up.
Winner: Toulouse
Qualifying runner up: Leicester

Pool 3
Teams: Biarritz, Connacht, Harlequins, Zebre
Rundown: Young clubs Connacht and Zebre are currently propping up the PRO12 table and they could prove easy meat for Harinordoquy’s Biarritz and Robshaw’s Harlequins. Biarritz should qualify on the basis of their inferior opposition while the Harlequins’ back line will be out to prove their pedigree on the European stage.
Winner: Harlequins
Qualifying runner up: Biarritz

Pool 4
Teams: Castres, Glasgow, Northampton, Ulster
Rundown: Ulster will come into the group stages full of confidence after their exploits last season and they will be hoping that the return of Tommy Bowe will help maintain their presence on the European stage. Northampton are an outside shout for a runners up qualification, but this group should be tough.
Winner: Ulster

Pool 5
Teams: Clermont, Exeter, Leinster, Scarlets
Rundown: Leinster and Clermont are two of the most dangerous attacking sides in Europe and both lit up last season’s competition. Leinster are rightly the bookies’ favourite to lift the trophy while Clermont’s unpredictable away form could see them dropping points on trips to Sandy Park and the Parc y Scarlets. Expect to see a dogged performance from the Chiefs but neither they nor the Scarlets have a good chance of progression from this group.
Winner: Leinster

Pool 6
Teams: Cardiff, Montpellier, Toulon, Sale
Rundown: Toulon sit on top of the Top 14 while Cardiff, Montpellier and Sale offer little more than Heineken Cup mediocrity. Jonny Wilkinson has been in fine form for Toulon this season and he will be hoping to shine on the European stage and remind Warren Gatland of what he can do. The Heineken Cup could prove a welcome distraction from Sale’s faltering Premiership campaign and they may well have their eye on an Amlin Cup spot.
Winner: Toulon

How do you see the groups unfolding?

By Nik Simon

Photo by: Patrick Khachfe / Onside Images

13 thoughts on “Heineken Cup 2012/13: Pool Winner Predictions

  1. Ospreys will win Pool 2. They seem to be finally coming out of their malaise and now have a decent mix of dogged old guys looking for that one last chance and young guys unfettered by fear. If Biggar can play as well as he can, rather than how he often does, then they will do enough.

    Disappointingly agree on Pool 6 but I can’t help feeling that Toulon will not walk through it as expected. They have a lot of the same players they had before and they have not achieved anything with them yet. As the HC often shows, domestic league performance is hardly ever an indicator of international performance.

    PS. If Jonny gets picked for the Lions then that’s the end of it for me. Sexton, Ford, Priestland, Flood, Biggar, even O’Gara … picking Jonny ahead of those would make a mockery of the whole thing. Let’s let him enjoy his late summer in France and not show him up on the big stage again at this age.

    1. What better stage than the Heineken Cup for Jonny to show that he’s back to his best?! Only kidding, there’s no way Gatland would (or should) take him, and I don’t want to see him exposed again – it was bad enough seeing a living legend trudging off in his final appearance against France this time last year having been replaced by Matt Banahan. Yes, Banahan!

          1. Speaking seriously, I know what you mean. I thought 2006 would be the lowest point in English rugby I’d see, boy was I wrong.

            1. 2006 was the year in which Rob Andrew joined the RFU, steering the ship to ‘rock bottom’ in 2011. Anyway, a bit of a tangent…

              I think a French team will win the Heineken Cup this year.

    2. Don’t know if I’d be so confident calling Ospreys to win the group. Toulouse are the best team in there, Top XIV runners up and sitting solid in 2nd right now. Leicester are targetable at the minute, but the Ospreys haven’t lit the world on fire with losses against Treviso and Glasgow – the only result I’ve been impressed with so far was the win over Scarlets and a tight loss to Ulster.

      Personally, I doubt 2 teams will go through this group. It’s Leicester’s luck again this year to come up against 2 class opponents which will likely deny each other the bonus point wins that will help with 2nd place qualification through this system. Lose one game and you’re 2nd place qualifier maybe. Lose two, you’re in trouble. If Ospreys and Leicester win one each of their clashes they’re both going to be watching the 1/4s on TV.

      1. Have to agree with wookie on this, I can only see one team progressing from a group with 3 genuine contenders… And let’s not forget about Treviso, they’re far from the wooping boys they used to be, and I wouldn’t be surprised if they claimed at least one scalp at home. Sadly I think Toulouse will go through fairly comfortably.

        Elsewhere, I think some Saints fans might be slightly cheesed off at being considered ‘outside bets’ for qualification despite being top of the Prem and only having lost once this season (albeit badly to the side second from bottom)…

        Having said all that, I think one of the second qualifier spots will come from the Leinster/Clermont group, they’re both just too strong to drop points against anyone but each other in my eyes.

        1. Saints face an easier route than Leicester but I think the Tigers will have the bit between their teeth, failure to progress again this year would be no less than a travesty at Welford Road.

  2. I dont agree on you saying that Montpellier offer mediocrity, even in Europe. In their domestic league they’ve been on par with Toulon and just below the big guns Clermont and Toulouse. Its true that this year they aren’t performing to that standard, but they are missing their Puma’s, who should be returning shortly. And remember that they drew with Leinster, yes champs, and could’ve won that game.

    I just hope Clermont won’t slip up against Exeter and Scarlets, it would be a shame to not have them in the knockout stages, they do provide the emotion! Though it would be the ultimate revenge to knockout Leinster in the pool stages with a win at the RDS! With a Brock James dropgoal or even a try :D

    1. I have not seen Montpellier play this season but looking at their respective squads and league standings I would not put them on a par with Toulon.

      I agree with you on Clermont, it would be great to see them in the knock out stages and I am a massive fan of Wesley Fofana, but my gut tells me they will not enjoy the channel hopping..

  3. As a LI fan we are ‘having a sabbatical this year’ so will hope to see our 2nd XV – Toulon – do well

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