The Heineken Cup returns for back to back weekends of thrilling european rugby action, and as always, there are a few tasty looking fixtures to set the pulse racing. We’ve picked out a few of the key clashes, and you’ll find my predictions for every game at the end of the article.
Munster v Perpignan
Perpignan were famously embarrassed in the opening round after their arrogant approach to visiting Benetton Treviso backfired, whilst Munster have also lost a game – to Northampton in Round 1. Losing two games in the group stages isn’t really an option if you have designs on the trophy, so this game should be a cracker.
Since their first round defeats, both teams have responded emphatically – Munster with a convincing win over Treviso, and Perpignan overcoming Northampton – and this game is likely to be close.
The pressure on the former champions at Thomond Park, where they very rarely lose, will be considerable, and may encourage them to play a tight game. The Top 14 champions may try to open up and keep the ball away from Paul O’Connell’s pack, particularly since they are missing Number 8, Henry Tuilagi, and Munster’s defence will need to be at its best to contain the French centre partnership of David Marty and Maxime Mermoz.
The bookies are offering a 10-point handicap, but I think it will be closer so I’ve gone for Munster by 6.
Llanelli Scarlets v Leinster
The reigning champions have been struggling a little to find their form, and having lost to London Irish in Round 1, they can’t really afford to lose another game. They haven’t won away from home since October, and won’t really be relishing the prospect of a trip to Wales to face the unbeated Scarlets.
Brian O’Driscoll’s men will also be without the services of key fly-half Jonny Sexton, who misses the game with a hand injury, and for me, this could be crucial.
Scarlets coach Nigel Davies has billed the match as the club’s biggest game for three years, and has called upon key players such as Stephen Jones, David Lyons and Simon Easterby to fight to maintain their 100% record in the competition so far.
This is slightly controversial, but I’m going for a narrow home win, with Scarlets by 3.
Clermont Auvergne v Leicester Tigers
What better way to round off the weekend than with this clash between two huge teams.
The Tigers appeared to hit some form against Leeds a couple of weeks ago, with Toby Flood back at fly-half running the show alongside Aaron Mauger. I for one thought they were set for a winning streak, but then they came up against Wasps who knew how to contain the Tigers.
Much depends on the French outfit and their drive to survive in Europe’s Pool of Death. If they can dominate up front, in the scrums and lineouts, they should have enough strength to win at home in front of their partisan crowd.
However, Clermont haven’t been too convincing in the Top 14 this season with 7 wins from their 15 games, and I’m backing the Tigers’ inherent determination to succeed to make the difference, particularly after they dropped points at home against the Ospreys.
My SportGuru prediction is Leicester by 4.
Here is the full list of predictions for Round 3 of the Heineken Cup. Let me know what you think and then click through for a rugby betting preview of key Heineken Cup games.
Glasgow Warriors v Gloucester Rugby: Glasgow Warriors by 6
Munster v Perpignan: Munster by 6
Viadana v Ospreys: Ospreys by 18
Ulster v Stade Francais Paris: Stade Francais Paris by 8
Northampton Saints v Benetton Treviso: Northampton Saints by 24
Cardiff Blues v Toulouse: Toulouse by 13
Scarlets v Leinster: Scarlets by 3
Brive v London Irish: London Irish by 13
Harlequins v Sale Sharks: Harlequins by 7
Biarritz v Gwent Dragons: Biarritz by 13
Bath v Edinburgh: Bath by 5
ASM Clermont Auvergne v Leicester Tigers: Leicester Tigers by 4