Heineken Cup: How Things Stand

Thomas Waldrom

The Heineken Cup takes centre stage once again over the next fortnight, and we thought it was worth a recap on how things currently stand in each pool.

Pool 1

Northampton Saints top Pool One after narrow victories over Castres and Edinburgh, and they now face second-placed Cardiff in back-to-back matches that could decide the outcome of this pool before Christmas. Having lost in Castres, the Blues will be desperate for two big performances to keep their qualification hopes alive, but they’re up against the form team in the Aviva Premiership and I don’t fancy their chances.

Meanwhile, Castres and Edinburgh will both be looking for two wins and a favour from Cardiff if they are to stand any chance of making the knockout stages.

Revised prediction: Northampton to qualify and keep up their 100% record before Christmas.

Pool 2

Leinster are sitting pretty with 9 points from two wins, but the next two fixtures are crucial – away and then home to Clermont Auvergne, who ought to be their main challengers to top the pool.

They come into these games on the back of slightly shaky Magners League form, but that was the case for the first two rounds and they exceeded expectations. Home advantage is likely to be telling, and one win apiece would set up a great finish in January.

Meanwhile, Racing Metro will be looking to do the double over winless Saracens, who might just pick a weaker side now that they are highly unlikely to qualify. That could keep the pool very interesting if Leinster and Clermont do indeed share the points in the next fortnight.

Revised prediction: still backing Clermont Auvergne to qualify and would expect them to pick up a losing bonus point in Dublin.

Pool 3

The pool of death is proving just as close as expected with Munster, Ospreys, Toulon and London Irish all winning one and losing one in the first two rounds. The wily Munster top the table though having picked up two bonus points from their fixtures.

Munster will face the Ospreys twice in the next fortnight, and a confidence-boosting home win in Round 3 would set them up for a good crack at their Magners League rivals in the return leg.

Meanwhile, Toulon and London Irish will do battle, knowing that any slip-ups could see them fall out of contention very quickly. If the trend of winning at home continues, Rounds 5 and 6 could be fascinating.

Revised prediction: still backing Munster to proceed, and expect two wins over the Ospreys.

Pool 4

Biarritz are very much in command of this pool having won at The Rec and with the prospect of back-to-back meetings with Aironi to net maximum points. The French will fancy 10 points from the next two weekends which ought to see them through to the quarters.

Bath and Ulster should have their eyes on a best runners-up spot, and their imminent encounters should be fascinating. Ulster have been in fine form in the Magners League, and after a rest weekend thanks to the snow, will be raring to go against the out-of-form Bath.

Revised prediction: Biarritz to qualify as pool winners, Ulster as best Runner Up

Pool 5

The Tigers top pool 5 with maximum points from their first two Heineken Cup outings, but face a tough trip to Perpignan this weekend before the return fixture at Welford Road the following week.

Their injury troubles don’t seem to be affecting them too much and are in ominous form once again – a win at London Irish at the weekend will help the confidence as well.

The Scarlets will need consecutive wins over Treviso to remain in contention, but with the Italians’ home form this season, that is easier said than done and it’s likely they’ll need to rely on Perpignan to stop the Tigers running away with it.

Revised prediction: Tigers to qualify

Pool 6

Toulouse are in the driving seat in Pool 6 having edged past Wasps and then thrashed the Dragons. A tricky trip to Glasgow in the cold on Friday night is in store, but if they come through that, they’ll be favourites to go through.

Wasps could do with back-to-back wins over the Dragons to keep on their tails, and that could set up a thrilling climax to the pool stages as they entertain the French in Round 6.

Revised prediction: Toulouse to win pool, Wasps to qualify as best runners-up

Take a look at the Heineken Cup fixtures here.

14 thoughts on “Heineken Cup: How Things Stand

  1. Wow, what a surprise. So, an English-biased blog predicting 0 wins for any of the Welsh teams over the next fortnight, oh, perhaps a grudging acknowledgment that the Scarlets might win at home against Treviso? As happens every year the Blues end up in a group with “the form” England side that year, a side the Blues proceed to royally shame (Harlequins was the most recent example). Last year The Scarlets, who couldn’t even beat Connaught, humiliate London Irish home and away … but still the English persist with the idea that every time they play us they’ll beat us … hilariously lazy writing.

  2. I think that’s a slightly unfair assessment, brighty.

    Cardiff have lost at home to Ulster and the Scarlets recently, and whilst I acknowledge that Magners League form doesn’t always matter in the Heineken Cup, it’s a fair basis to predict that Northampton, top of the Aviva Premiership, will beat them twice.

    I’d expect the Scarlets to beat Treviso at home, and they might even win away, but I doubt it based on Treviso’s home form this season.

    The Ospreys have back-to-back matches with Munster, who are notoriously hard to beat in Europe. The O’s have had a reasonable run in the Magners League, but I think Munster will beat them well at Thomond and from there it will be hard for the Welsh to turn it round in the return leg.

    As for the Dragons, they are pretty much out already, whereas Wasps are fighting to stay in contention.

    I stand by my predictions. Obviously I’m often wrong, as is everyone, but there’s a reasonable basis for this looking at current form – quoting results from previous seasons is not a reasonable basis in my view.

    Hilariously lazy, one-eyed criticism I say.

  3. looking forward to Perpignan-Leicester and Saints-Cardiff.

    There does always seem to be a Welsh team in the quarters and i think Cardiff and Ospreys are looking the most likely but they’ve probably got the toughest “double-headers” out of anyone. They might both be looking at best runners up spots but then again, those might well come from pools 4 and 6. Who the hell knows?!

    I just hope the weather is dry and we get some top quality matches…and that Wasps win.

  4. Hutch, to say “it’s a fair basis to predict that Northampton, top of the Aviva Premiership, will beat them twice” just reaffirms my point about your English bias. The assumption of lazy English journalists is that the Aviva Premiership is the best competition, so by extension has the best teams, so by extension blah blah blah… As you say, it must be a foregone conclusion that the team top of the AP will beat the team 3rd in the Magners both home and away, how could that be contentious?

    You probably wish you could ignore the previous few years evidence given how well that supports your assertion that top of the AP counts for much in the Heineken Cup.

  5. Brighty, I certainly haven’t said it’s a foregone conclusion…my prediction is that the Saints will beat them twice, and that is based on my opinion of the two sides’ form in their respective competitions.

    I’ve never said that one competition is better than the other, because it’s very difficult to compare, and I’m certainly not saying results in the Heineken Cup are a foregone conclusion or a non-contentious issue…!

    I just think you are being overly critical calling me lazy just because I have a different opinion to you.

  6. Why is it then when someone disgrees with others opinions and predictions on this site, it always resorts to comments such as ” English-biased blog” and now a new one in the form of “hilariously lazy writing”? Everyone’s predictions are their own, based on their own reasoning. Christ, I’m sure my predictions differ from everyone else’s, and I know my opinions do from time to time, but yet I don’t respond with pathetic statements like those – and I don’t see why people feel the need to make them. My personal predictions for the weekend are:

    Glasgow vs Toulouse – TOULOUSE. Why? Lets face it, its a brave man that bets against Toulouse, in any competition.

    Ulster vs Bath – Ulster. Why? I’m a loyal Bath supporter and would love to see an away victory, but I just can’t see it happening. Something isn’t clicking this season, and with the announcement of losing our Captain, Watson, I think the game will only go one way

    Aironi vs Biarritz – Biarritz. Why? Aironi are struggling in the Magners, and Biarritz have the experience

    Perpignan vs Leicester – Leicester. Why? Again, they have such strength in depth and they have the knowledge and experience to win big games.

    Scarlets vs Trevis -. Scarlets. Why? Though Treviso have been doing well, I think the Scarlets will be too strong for them

    Saracens vs Racing Metro – Racing Metro. Why? Tough one to call, but think Metro will just get it

    Northampton vs Cardiff – Northampton. Why? Northampton are on fine form, where Cardiff have struggled in a few games i.e against Bath

    Castres vs Edinburgh – Castres. Why? Another tough one to call, but I’m going with home advantage

    Munster vs Ospreys – Munster. Why? Like Toulouse, it’s a brave man that bets against Munster

    Dragons vs Wasps – Wasps. Why? Could go either way, but I’m predicting wasps to just sneek it

    Irish vs Toulon. Toulon – Why? Irish are really struggling at the mo and I can’t see them having enough self belief to win

    Clermont vs Leinster – Clermont. Why? Could go either way, but I’m backing home advantage

  7. And another thing, if this is an English biased blog, then why have I (an Englishman) only predicted 2 English teams to win this weekend? Answer – because everyones predictions vary!!! Its got nothing to do with being biased, so please stop making statements like that just because you don’t agree with others predictions.

  8. Some Heineken Cup stats:

    English teams – won 6 times, runners up 3 times
    French teams – won 5 times, runners up 9 times
    Irish teams – won 4 times, runners up twice
    Welsh teams – never won, runners up once

  9. Lads – calm down please.
    The reason you’ve only predicted a couple of English wins is because they’re not very good. HOWEVER, I’m still backing my pre-season 12/1 bet on the Saints to conquer Europe this year. They’ve continued their good form in the Premiership over several months, despite missing a lot of their players through injury and international call-ups. With the likes of Lawes and co back in the team they just look a class act.
    We all know that home advantage hugely tilts all predictions and the key is finding where it can be toppled.
    Toulon are one of the teams that might take the away win, because Irish are in a bit of a struggle to stay in touch, as happens most seasons. Metro could beat Saracens given the latter’s off-field troubles and lack of qualification prospects, but I still fancy Saracens.

    And for heaven’s sake, stop saying that you can’t be biased in favour of England because you’ve said an English team will lose. It’s like saying that you can’t be homophobic because you have a gay friend – yes, you didn’t see this curveball coming into a rugby debate.

    Long and short of it is – each country has a coupla good teams, but the Welsh aren’t playing well at the moment, and the French are bad away.

  10. that picture of Waldrom above highlights his unique facial and bodily appearance, like something out of the lord of the rings

  11. I had the privilege of (literally) bumping into Waldrom in the press room at Welford road. Amazingly no damage suffered on my part. Great player

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