It’s important to understand the context of the respective SportGuru leagues before seeing my predictions – I’m near the top in the Amlin Challenge Cup, and I have some catching up to do in the Heineken Cup competition.
At this stage of the season, the position in your pool impacts your prediction strategy – if you need to make up ground, you might need to consider backing the underdog.
Heineken Cup Semi-Final Predictions
Only French and Irish teams are left in the competition, and by Sunday night, I’m predicting that it will be only the French left standing.
Both Leinster and Munster have demonstrated in the past that they are capable of winning in France, but this weekend, I’m backing Toulouse and Biarritz. Toulouse are my favourites for the title based on their form and ambition in recent games, and I can see them rising to any challenge put in front of them.
Leinster have been beaten in the Magners League recently by Connacht and Glasgow, and there are concerns over the fitness of Jonny Sexton and Rob Kearney, both of whom are key players for the reigning champions, and I can’t really see a victory in Toulouse this weekend.
My SportGuru prediction is Toulouse by 8
This game is where the context is important – my instinct tells me to back Munster, but with ground to make up and an expectation that most people will back the Irish, I’ve gone for Biarritz.
And now for my tenuous justification: Iain Balshaw will have a storming game with a hat-trick and man of the match performance, sending Biarritz into the final, and Hutch up the SportGuru league.
Seriously though, Munster are without Paul O’Connell, which admittedly didn’t hold them back against Northampton, but away in the south of France is the sort of place that you need every inspiration that you can find. It’s going to be a very tight game, and it really could go either way, so my fingers are crossed.
Biarritz v Munster: Biarritz by 5
Amlin Challenge Cup Predictions
I’m backing the favourites in the two Amlin Challenge Cup semi-finals. Connacht could very easily cause an upset, but it would be a risky prediction – on paper, Toulon are a stronger side, and they’ll fancy their chances of progressing to the final.
In the other semi, I’ve gone for home advantage again, although I think the margin will be small. After their thrashing last week against Bath at Twickenham, Wasps will be keen to make amends, and I’m hoping they edge past their Welsh opponents.
Connacht Rugby v Toulon: Toulon by 8
London Wasps v Cardiff Blues: London Wasps by 6