Heineken Cup 2012/2013 Predictions: Round 2

Heineken rugbyRound 1 of the Heineken Cup reminded us all why we love it so much. Whilst there weren’t any major upsets, Exeter came close to the result of the year so far at Leinster and Sale bucked their losing trend in a thrilling comeback against Cardiff. What does round 2 hold? Here are my SuperBru predictions.

Friday night sees the teams from Pool 4 in action, with Northampton making the trip to Castres and Ulster travelling up for an all-Celtic clash with Glasgow. I expect the two teams that won last weekend to continue their form, although it should be a tight game for the Saints- French sides are never easily beaten at home.

There are some mouth-watering clashes on Saturday, and none more so than French giants Clermont’s trip to Devon to take on Exeter. They certainly showed they are no pushovers in round one, but I think Clermont have too much firepower to be caught out and should win, although I wouldn’t be surprised if Exeter bagged a bonus point. In Pool 1, Saracens face Racing Metro in a game they should win if they carry on their form from last week, while Harlequins will be keen to avoid tripping on the banana skin of an away fixture at Connacht like they did last season. Holders Leinster travel to Llanelli to take on the Scarlets, where I expect them to bounce back from a disappointing performance last weekend and record a comfortable win.

On Sunday the Tigers take on Ospreys with the two teams having vastly different fortunes in the first round. The Tigers should win by virtue of the Welford Road factor, but could be run close by the Ospreys- bonus points will be vital in this pool and the Welsh outfit will be keen to pick one up here. Elsewhere Toulon’s star-studded squad role into Cardiff for what could be a cracking game, and one in which I expect the French outfit to triumph. Montpellier didn’t look great last weekend but will be a different beast at home, hopefully with their star names back, and should beat Sale fairly comfortably.

Here are all my picks for round 2:

Glasgow Warriors vs Ulster: Ulster by 10
Castres vs Northampton Saints: Saints by 5
Scarlets vs Leinster: Leinster by 10
Benetton Treviso vs Toulouse: Toulouse by 20
Saracens vs Racing Metro: Saracens by 11
Connacht vs Harlequins: Quins by 18
Exeter Chiefs vs Clermont Auvergne : Clermont by 4
Biarritz vs Zebre : Biarritz by 30
Cardiff Blues vs Toulon: Toulon by 13
Munster vs Edinburgh: Munster by 15
Leicester Tigers vs Ospreys: Tigers by 4
Montpellier vs Sale: Montpellier by 12

How do you see the weekend going?

By Jamie Hosie

42 thoughts on “Heineken Cup 2012/2013 Predictions: Round 2

  1. Interesting to see you have gone for 7 away wins, something that would probably be a record for a round of this competition?

    Connacht is not a banana skin – that’s just anti Pro-12 bias. Connacht are a tough team to beat at home but because they are a semi-permanent fixture at the bottom of the pro-12 there is a hubristic assumption that English sides would only lose to them by some sort of freak accident.

    1. Big Connacht fan but there’s no Pro12 bias here, they are a banana skin, teams just have to respect them and go in guns blazing and they’ll probably beat them. Connacht always turn up like any class act so if you turn off for a second you’re toast. And this year they actually have a fly half, I wouldn’t be surprised if Connacht win this but Quins will have a big edge this time around.

    2. I think it’s fair to call Connacht a banana skin, but that’s not to say Quins won’t treat them with respect. They will remember all too well last season’s visit and will make sure it doesn’t happen again. I’ve gone for Quins but by a smaller margin.

      Glasgow and Exeter have a chance, but wouldn’t be surprised to see 7 away wins, and maybe even 8 if Sarries take their eye off the ball in Belgium.

  2. Hi, nice banter there. Takes away the stress of our local Currie Cup semi finals. OK as a complete Heineken Cup novice I got to say Brighty makes a valid point, 7 away wins? Wow brave call but I get a feeling Connacht are going to suprise as will the Chiefs. Watched the Saints game last week. They looked very dangerous and I can see why they top the Aviva Premeirship. By the way Sharks to beat the Bulls and Lions to beat Western Province. Enjoy!

  3. Seven away wins is a big call, but I’d say in at least six of those games (Ulster, Leinster, Quins, Clermont, Toulouse and Toulon) the away side is a level above their opposition. If those sides play to their usual standards they will win. That said there are a couple of question marks, what with Leinster not clicking so far this year and Clermont being well known for a dreadful away record in Europe, QF versus Sarries aside. Castres v Northampton is another close call, as a lot depends on how seriously Castres take the game and whether they’ve decided that last weeks spanking at Ravenhill has already hobbled their chances.

  4. The number of away wins is irrelevant, but an interesting stat nonetheless. Look at each fixture and make a prediction in isolation…7 away wins very feasible.

      1. Yeah to be honest I didn’t even notice as I was picking them that I had gone for 7 away wins… Home advantage is usually crucial in the Heineken but all the heavyweights seem to be playing away this weekend. Hopefully that might mean some upsets are on the cards!

  5. For a tournament that throws up intense competition, I can’t help but think these are very very safe selections. Don’t be surprised if Ospreys turn over Leicester, Glasgow pip Ulster and if its cold, wet and windy in Connacht (who’d believe that?) they turn Quins over again

    1. You’re right, none of those results would surprise me, but equally I still think the reverse is more likely… Which is why I went for them. Interesting that you think they’re conservative while everyone above is saying it would be a surprise to see so many away wins!

    2. Connacht winning would be the least surprising for me to be honest, they’ve had to battle extremely hard to get a little respect and the one team they got it against in the Heineken Cup is coming over to their doorstep for a wee game. They’ll latch on to that hope and turn it this year into expectation I think.

  6. 1 from 2 on the predictions so far then. Castres coach nearly handed it back to Saints with his substitutions but they hung in there. Great stuff.

  7. Some of the away wins are against Teams that should never be in the Cup i.e Cardiff Blues, Scarlets, Canaught, Treviso are all lowering the standard. So very realistic predictions

    1. All of the teams you mentioned there were well in the games at half time, what they didn’t have was the ruthless experience better teams have at playing the last 20 minutes of the game when they were all put to the sword! They’ll only get that experience by playing in the Heineken Cup and Amlin Challenge Cup. I think the system works well especially considering the back to back games coming up, some incredible matchups we’ll get to see; Ulster – Northampton, Munster – Sarries, Leinster – Clermont!

      1. I think the Amlin cup would better suit the Teams i mentioned at present, i do not think it helps with confidence of the Teams to be put to the sword, Cardiff Blues will not win games at present against reasonable Teams due to the fact they do not have a front 5, better teams are exploiting this, rightly so – at ease, forcing the Blues to give away procession, territory and penalties. Being in the game at half time is not sufficient and both Teams looked mediocre at best when pressure was applied. Cardiff Blues looked lost against Sale ( not the strongest of Teams ) and the basics were not apllied.

  8. Amathus I obviously on a different planet. He’s either not aware that Perpignan and Biarittz have lost on Italy or that Quins lost in Western Ireland last season or caring not to acknowledge it.
    These teams are all good enough and deserve to be in there. If Halfpenny had his kicking boots on earlier this afternoon Cardiff would he won against the rugby equivalent of Real Madrid

    1. I am fully aware that Italian Teams do pull of the odd impressive win but are far from consistant, and if’s and buts are not excuses – these Teams are simply not good enough at present are are in the cup purely because of the ridiculous qualification system – so not justified. The Amlin cup would be be much better suited to these clubs. I think you should watch the bLues and then make constructive comments

  9. Amathus is obviously a completely clueless troll who knows less about rugby than my cat. He’s probably the same sort who reckons the Six Nations should be between Eng and Fra ever year. Witless commenting.

    1. This is the kind of comment i expect from a certain quarter. All the teams mentioned have done little over the years to justify there inclusion. Please inform me otherwise in a constructive manner if your able too. The initiative put forward in the pro 12 to suggest that only 6 Teams qualify into Europe is completely needed to make the league competetive, hence help Italian and some Welsh regions improve, presently the league is titular and the reason Welsh regions cannot compete in Europe.

      1. Cardiff – two semi finals and one final but this is irrelevant as the only justification a team needs is to qualify. Luckily you don’t get to decide who deserves it, far more regular and sensible minds prevail.

        The initiative you suggest is hilarious given that the supposed lack of competition in the league does not seem to have stopped the Irish from cleaning up in the HC. It will be interesting to hear you explain, as you no doubt will, that the lack of competition you perceive actually helps the Irish teams and hinders the non-Irish ones at the same time.

        England not winning a HC for a few years won’t be fixed by messing around with non-English leagues.

        Anyone with half an ounce of rugby knowledge understands that the problems with the Welsh regions will not be fixed by respinning the pro 12. These are problems of tribalism, support, finance and focus that are nothing to do with league structures.

        In short is is a tired old argument that has only gathered steam due to the dominance of Ireland in the cup annoying the English and French who think that it can only be down to technical policies, not actually that the Irish teams are better than them…

        1. I agree with some of your comments, although the Irish travel in the pro 12 with a number of 2nd string players. I want to see the best players playing week in week out and make the league competetive. I am Welsh by the way, and a non competetive league is not helping the Welsh regions, 6 top Teams in the league is the only way forward

          1. The Anglo-French argument, you regurgitate here, is nonsense as they argue simultaneously that the non-competitive nature of the pro12/Irish squad rotation is the reason for Irish dominance. If that is so why (a) do Irish teams fielding weakened sides consistently finish at the top end of the league and (b) do Welsh sides who have the same ‘benefits’ consistently underperform in the HCup.
            The other point worth noting in this is that Irish clubs squad rotation is not a club policy to benefit HCup performances but rather an IRFU imposed policy to benefit the national team and players long term careers. This will not change even if the proposed HCup qualification changes are implemented.

  10. Really, read earlier comments. Have you watched the Blues this year or last year. The Amlin Cup is there for this reason

    1. I am a Blues season ticket holder, I do not need any advice from you on the problems with our scrum.

      Last year we reached the quarters and were blown away by the team that blew everyone lose away – Leinster. This year we switched off for the last twenty against Sale and were punished. Today our front five held its own for much of the match against one of the most praised bunch of players in world rugby (though not necessarily a team of great players). We do not write off teams on the basis of a finite length of time. By your rationale England should be ruled out of the next world cup due to their embarrassing on and off field performances in the last, but that is of cours not going to happen, and not should it.

      The European cup takes the teams that qualify and pits them against each other. When Northampton collapse in the second half against Leinster in the final nobody says they shouldnt be there. When Leics look lost and ineffectual against Toulouse it’s not time for Leics to call it quits. When Leinster barely scrape past Exeter it’s not the end of the road for them. The cup is the European cup of qualified teams, not some subjective best of the best where teams that only meet your standard are allowed to compete. Edinburgh reached the semis last year, something you no doubt would not have allowed to even be a possibility as you believe you know best about which are the better teams. Let’s see how it all goes this season and the winner will be objectively selected, not subjectively by you.

  11. Hey hutch…close call. Had sharks to win as well as the lions! Seems like a few heated words out there at the moment. Love the passion! My predictions were messed up had Connacht and chiefs for wins so down the log i slip! The Heineken cup is superb. Really enjoy the fact that there are possibly 5 potential winners of the competition. I see it takes a break and it is now the regular leagues. Anyone want to talk about the home internationals. My feeling is the sprinboks to beat Ireland …just.. and Scotland but really struggle against England. My opinion is that if Lambie is picked at 10 they will do well.

  12. The pro 12 require qualification and that should be the best 6 Teams only, not just the worst Irish and Welsh province and the two Scottish and two Italian Teams, at present it is a farce as Teams don’t have to prove themselves week in week out as in the English and French league- like it or not. The remaining Teams in the Amlin – Sale and Exeter qualified on last seasons standings.

  13. Just to throw my piece into the boil here – it’s pretty clear, from what I can see, that the PRO12 is a stronger league than the Premiership and the Top 14, if not looking at HC results, but just 6 nations results: the league which has most of the Welsh and Irish players should be stronger than one with most of the English and one with most of the French.

    I personally (as an English Premiership supporter) think that it would be unfair for only the top 6 in the PRO12 qualify for the HC.

    But at the same time, having the weak sides in the HC is turning into a bit of a joke. So what about this suggestion? It’s not going to be implemented (unless the ERC read this blog as well!), of course, but:

    The same current format of 24 teams.

    Each league gets allocated a certain number of slots in the group stage by default for each year:
    -4 for the Premiership
    -4 for the Top 14
    -7 for the PRO12

    The PRO12 number of 7 could be shared out between the countries taking part, a fair figure right now would be something like this:
    -1 for Italy
    -1 for Scotland
    -2 for Wales
    -3 for Ireland

    There would be 1 qualifying place for the country that has the side that wins the Challenge Cup in the previous year.

    The remaining 8 places will be divided between the League/Country that got into the Quarter Finals of the HC the previous year – the priority going to the country for PRO12 teams, but if a country has too many spaces (For example, Ireland get 6 allocations, thanks to 3 QuarterFinalists), then the allocation will move on to the next best placed team in the league that year. If the PRO12 runs over 12 allocations, then their overflow allocations can be given to the country of the best-placed non-qualifier for the Quarter Finals, and so on.

    This would reduce the amount of weak teams in the Cup. It would not solve the problem of the Irish sides not having to qualify, but I don’t think that’s a decent argument. The problem I have with the HC at the moment is the fact that there are too many weaker teams in the Cup, when some sides in the ACC are clearly stronger. There obviously will never be a perfect conclusion (Gloucester/Sale being a good example) but I think that my format might remove a few weak teams?

    1. Mike, that is an interesting idea and it is refreshing to see someone appreciate that you cannot treat Pro 12 qualification in the same way as Top14/England. The Pro 12 came after HC; what the other unions do not realise is that it truly is less important to Ireland/Wales/Scot (Italy? I don’t know) than the HC, we are not trying to pretend it isn’t. But that is our choice to make, not have something forced on us by other unions. We think our choice is the right one given the number of HCs and Grand Slams that have come the way of our countries. It is counter-intuitive to see the current weaker nations in the HC trying to tell the league with the most winners in the last decade how they actually should be doing things.

      As for the weaker teams — Cardiff are, and people forget this, top seed in their HC group. This is based on performance over the last few years. If Cardiff had the same team now as last year (Jenkins, Tito, Rush, etc.) then we would be doing much better. The fact is we (as have all of Wales) had a financial implosion over the summer and we are now struggling to move forward, but it will come. If England/France want to optimise their HC chances then let them do that themselves, don’t try and do it by meddling in how other countries prepare themselves. If they want to win their domestic leagues more than the HC then that is their choice and it will make it hard for them to compete with Leinster, but they do not have the right to fix that by trying to force Leinster into playing the season in the same way as them. What comes next? Will we demand that the SH teams play only in the cold and rain as it is not fair for them to get so much practice in drier conditions?

    2. Could also go for something similar to the super 15 format for pro12 qualification, with top club/region/province for from each country getting a spot and then ~4 wildcard slots.

      Personally I think English and French are looking at this from the wrong perspective, yes some changes are required to avoid weakened pools with the likes of Zebtre. I would rather they focused on growing the size of the cake rather than squabbling over the biggest slice, e.g. aim for a competition format that will offer the highest quality of entertainment and generate the maximum amount of revenue for all participants (HC and Amlin)

      For a sustainable high quality competition there has to be some sort of financial fair play, e.g. not operating at stupid losses and a salary cap.

    3. Very interesting concept you have there. Nearly too good to succeed. It ticks all the boxes in relation to what you need to ensure that the characteristics of the tourament are retained.

      Italian involvement gauranteed
      Scottish involvement gauranteed
      Rabo Unions rewarded for sucess in Europe
      English and French clubs rewarded for sucess in Europe.

  14. Just to get back to the rugby itself here, can anyone who watched the Blues/Toulon game let me know how S Armitage showed up against Warburton?

    And how did Wilkinson play?

    1. Warburton quiet (looked to get a knock early), S. Armitage MotM again.

      The non selection of Armitage for England is the only blot on Lancaster’s copybook in my opinion. I can appreciate it’s far from ideal not to have him available for all camps, but it’s also far from ideal we don’t have a groundhog remotely close to Pocock/McCaw class in the premiership. The “Toulon played a final on the day we flew to SA” argument is flawed as well as Robshaw missed the 3rd test by which time he would have been integrated and ready to play had he joined them after his Toulon obligations were complete.

      1. Thanks Matt

        I can see the problems with selecting players based in France, and therefore it is fine to have a general rule of not selecting them.

        But to stick dogmatically to that when all the available evidence suggests that one of your potentially best players will be excluded by doing so, strikes me as being blinkered and stubborn.

        Much as I would like to see Armitage playing open-side and Robshaw blind, I don’t think it will happen.

  15. Interesting comment around the format of the HC. Not sure if you followed the Super Rugby season 2011/12 where there was a convoluted formula involved. Each province having 1 representative in the final 3 then the next best 3 on the log involved in a protracted and drawn out rounds of play offs and semi finals. The Sharks travelled over 16 000 kilometrers in a period of 3 weeks to play in New Zealand, back in south Africa and then contest the final in New Zealand again!. In the end they were knackered! The HC format of pools seems equitable and fair having said that not one competition offers the perfect solution. Is there a chance HC format changes in the future?

    1. There is talk that they will reduce the number of teams in it from 24 to 20 which I assume would mean 4 pools of 5 with the top two qualifying for quaterfinals. Under that system each club has 4 pool games, two at home and two away. Would suit french clubs better given there aversion to travel.

  16. Hmmm, perhaps the French would like to travel between SA, NZ. & Aussie, not to mention Argentina. Come to think about it how about Tigers or any other English team playing there.

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