Heineken Cup Predictions 2012/13: Round 5

Here we go, 2nd last round of the pool stages, everyone’s got their calculators out and for a lot of the teams it’s still all to play for. There are plenty of sound arguments for slimming this competition down to just 20 teams but you have to admit that having 24 teams, all watching each other’s progress across all the pools, with their fates interconnected makes for a brilliantly interesting rugby tournament.

Heineken Cup

Pool 1
This pool is pretty tightly fought between the top three (sitting on 14:12:11 points respectively). Saracens are in the driving seat right now, but I wouldn’t discount Racing Metro at home, they need the bonus point win this weekend, but for Sarries winning this will surely set them up for the prize of a home Quarter Final. Meanwhile Munster need a bonus point win over Edinburgh now too and given how poorly the Scots have been playing this season, I don’t see the visitors being denied.

Racing Metro 92 vs Saracens: Saracens by 3
Edinburgh vs Munster: Munster by 15

Pool 2
This is another incredibly close pool. When Ospreys faced Leicester earlier this season it was nip and tuck the whole way until the last ten minutes, when Leicester quite clearly just went up a whole other gear to score three tries and power away from the visitors. If you asked me before last weekend I’d have backed the Ospreys on home turf, especially given their surprise defeat of Toulouse. Now after that woeful performance against Zebre in the Pro12 I’m not so sure. I think this is the toughest one to call of the lot. As for the other match, while Treviso aren’t the whipping boys of old, I think Toulouse simply have to much class to lose this one at home and given the head to head they’ll have with Leicester next weekend they won’t slip up here.

Ospreys vs Leicester Tigers: Ospreys by 3
Toulouse vs Benetton Treviso: Toulouse by 15

Pool 3
Top of the pool with 19 points out of a possible 20 and current domestic champions, Harlequins are just a solitary point away from certain qualification to the knockout stages. A strong win here sets them up for a potential home Quarter-final and despite Connacht’s ability to stun teams at the Sportsground, it’s highly unlikely at the Stoop. Speaking of being stunned at the Sportsground, the other match in Pool 3 is Biarritz (Connacht’s H-Cup victims of this season) against still winless Zebre. Zebre have been both downright awful at times and incredibly unlucky in other encounters. Is this going to be their first shock win?

Harlequins vs Connacht: Quins by 17
Zebre vs Biarritz: Zebre by 1 (I must be mad!)

Pool 4
First up in this pool is a repeat of an earlier clash between the current top two teams in the Pro12, where Glasgow have already lost to Ulster at Ravenhill. I expect more of the same here, especially after seeing the team-sheets. In the other fixture, Castres come to Franklin’s Gardens looking to do the double on Northampton this season. Not impossible but a big ask considering their away record in the Heineken Cup.

Ulster vs Glasgow Warriors: Ulster by 18
Northampton Saints vs Castres: Saints by 11

Pool 5
Clermont are the firm favourites to lift the Heineken Cup this year and rightly so. Exeter were unlucky not to snatch a draw with the current champions Leinster earlier this season but their opponents have gone undefeated at home in over 50 games. They might keep it close for the first half but Clermont will absorb any and all pressure and pull away comfortably in the end. For Leinster to have any hopes of making it to the knockout stages this season they need a big win over Scarlets and other matches to go their way. They’ve only got three tries this season, they need to add at least four here.

Leinster vs Llanelli Scarlets: Leinster by 15
Clermont Auvergne vs Exeter Chiefs: Clermont by 34

Pool 6

Toulon are one of only three unbeaten sides in this season’s pool stage and despite their recent shock loss to Racing Metro last weekend are still no. 1 in the Top14. As for Cardiff, a surprising win over Munster in the Pro12 last weekend notwithstanding, I don’t think they can pull off a win here especially with Toulon having something to prove to their home crowd. Sale’s season this year has been truly awful. With the Heineken Cup now totally out of reach they must now fight hard to avoid relegation in the Premiership; a fact reflected in their team selection this weekend against Montpellier. I expect the visitors to win fairly comfortably.

Toulon vs Cardiff Blues: Toulon by 22
Sale Sharks vs Montpellier: Montpellier by 17

How do you think the weekend will unfold? Feel free to share your predictions below.

By John O’Brien

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33 comments on “Heineken Cup Predictions 2012/13: Round 5

  1. Well i would agree in general with Brighty in this debate on h c places, We might squabble on wales ireland matters lol but he is spot on here. The h c needs above all else to be pan-european with the aim of really developing a wide pro-rugby base around europe especially outside the non traditonal countries. How about this, 7 groups of 4 teams , group winner and one runner -up go in to q final. The extra teams would be made up of 1 each from fra/ eng . and then a radical propasal, how bout bringing the likes of the Georgian and Romanian national sides in to the compt as this would be an ideal level for these nations to really develop their pro game and generate more interest there. The second tier nations could even have their own qualification process each season. Love to get feed back on this , good or bad.

    • Am in two minds over this. We have a two tier competition and I am all for a pan european competition which helps develop rugby in all countries.

      However would it not be better for say Zebre (to pick the obvious team from this year) to be playing competitive rugby in the Amlin cup rather than being hammered (mainly) in the HC. Other European countries can then have representation in this second tier competition. However is it beneficial for them to be hammered by the likes of Gloucester, Wasps, Stade Francais, etc.

      However I don’t want the HC to be Eng, French and Irish dominated (based on this years results only!). Therefore in two minds. Glad it’s not my decision to make.

      Maybe a three tier competition is needed!

      Also maybe a blog specifically on this matter is required!

      • Zebre are a regional team created specifically to play as professionals in the HC and Pro 12. If they did not get into the HC they would likely be disbanded.

        This is the problem with the Eng/Fre trying to direct how the Pro 12 teams get represented in the HC – they do not understand why the teams in the Pro 12 exist and why they take part in the Pro 12. I’m not having a go at you Staggy, I’m having a go at the Eng/Fre powers.

        The Eng/Fre leagues are made up of clubs. Take away the HC and the clubs and leagues would still exist. For the Wal/Ire/Ita/Sco teams (probably a little less for the Irish though) they are entities created for financial reasons, to enable a pro playing base in those much smaller countries. They are funded by their Unions and by money from the competitions. So for example to remove HC rugby from one or more of them would lead to a collapse of that system rather than the desired outcome of 2nd/3rd tier involvement.

        The now annual participation in the Amlin of the Dragons in Wales is part of why they are now continually threatened with closure.

        • Brighty. Very good point well made. I was looking at it from the playing point of view rather than the financial one. And of course they are two sides of the same coin. Once again we go round in circles with no answer as to how to structure it any better.

          It might come down to some increased participation by English and French clubs without the decrease in other countries participation. Just a thought!

          Bucharesti have certainly surprised me this year in AC. They’ve upset my predictions on several occasions, which is fantastic for the game!

          Am I imagining things or was there an occasion when some of the national sides like Spain played in a european club competition?

    • I think Georgia/Romania is a great idea but they would need to create a professional team first, it couldn’t be part timers. So they’d need a Zebre type entity but then they’d likely get hammered a lot as, much like Italian teams, most of their best players would be in France already?

      • Agreed ok but how about letting the national teams of these second tier nations compete in the h c rather than trying to put a competitive club side together as this could take a long time to bed-in. It would also be an ideal standard to play at for these countries and would really generate interest in the game especially in Georgia and Romania. Their national team players are already professional . How about Munster needing a result in georgia in the final game or Saracens having to win in Romania , . This would really be a huge boost for th h c .

        • I think if that happened you would suddenly see a load of Romanians and Georgians declare themselves unavailable for their teams in order to preserve their jobs in France. If they suddenly became unavailable on HC matches their values would plummet as many teams would no longer sign them.

          It’s a messy problem to fix.

          A few Arg players are already seeing their contracts not being picked up due to their commitments in the Rugby Champ now clashing with a big chunk of the northern domestic leagues.

          • Yeah, with Argentina in the Rugby Championship now, maybe we’ll see an exodus of Argentine players to the teams in the Southern Hemisphere in the future?

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