We should see some of the most exciting rugby of the domestic season this weekend as the Heineken Cup Quarter-finals take place.
Home advantage is a huge factor in European rugby, and so it’s no surprise that I’m picking four home victories – particularly as these four teams have home advantage by being virtue of the best teams in the Pool stages.
Leinster v ASM Clermont Auvergne
Leinster are the top dogs of Irish provincial rugby at the moment, and are the reigning Heineken Cup champions, but Clermont Auvergne will be no pushover. They boast several Grand Slam champions in the shape of Morgan Parra and Julien Bonnaire, whilst their back three of Anthony Floch, Aurelien Rougerie and Julien Malzieu is one of the finest in Europe.
Some people have said that there away form has improved this season, and they are no longer a team that just wilts away from home. That said, in the Heineken Cup this year, they have only managed to win away at Viadana – they lost to both Leicester and the Ospreys in the Pool stages.
Leinster also have more than their fair share of big names, and they should have more confidence going into the game in front of their own fans and following a great win against Munster last week. I think they’ll have too much for Clermont and for me it would be a huge suprise if the Away side won the game.
My SportGuru prediction is Leinster by 13
Biarritz v Ospreys
The Ospreys have long been a puzzling side when it comes to their European performances. On paper, with players such as James Hook, Shane Williams and Alun Wyn Jones in their ranks, they should be competing for the title every season, but somehow they always manage to disappoint.
It has been said that great teams are always more than the sum of their parts, but with the Ospreys, they aren’t quite as good as the sum of their parts, and I don’t think they’ll get much joy out of their trip to Biarritz.
If there is one player that contrasts with the Ospreys style, it is the hugely understated Imanol Harinordoquy. The best player of the Six Nations by a distance, and an incredibly effective back row operator, Harinordoquy will lead a shrewd pack that ought to outsmart the opposition and secure a semi-final berth.
My SportGuru prediction is Biarritz by 11