Ulster kick-off round round five on Friday night, taking on a Montpellier team that is missing many of its stellar names. The French club are out of the competition and will have one (if not two) eye(s) on the Top 14. Enzo Selponi is a talent at fly-half, but really Ulster should record a comfortable victory, and will be chasing the bonus point. The other game this evening sees the Scarlets travel to Paris to take on Racing in a game which is a dead rubber, and should go with the home team, who have named a strong team that includes former Scarlet Mike Phillips.
Saturday brings action from pool four, where Harlequins welcome Clermont to the Stoop. The French giants are in control of the pool, but will want a win in London to secure top spot and a home quarter final. However, with Quins bringing some good form (last week’s blip at Northampton aside) into the game, and the French side’s notorious inability to win on the road, I think the home team could grab an unlikely four points. Elsewhere, the Tigers face a tough assignment in Italy against a Treviso side that have caused them problems in the past, while Toulon host Cardiff, hoping to eradicate the memories of their shock round two loss at the Arms Park. Despite losing at home last weekend to Grenoble in the league, I’d expect them to win reasonably comfortably against the Welsh side.
In the later kick-offs, Gloucester welcome Munster to Kingsholm, hoping to turn their miserable season around. They’ve still got a slim chance of qualifying if they win their last two games, so will give it everything against a Munster side whose results have flattered them somewhat so far this season. Interestingly, Jonny May has been named at 13, potentially at the request of Stuart Lancaster, who might have one eye on him featuring there for England in the Six Nations. I would still expect, however, the Irish province to be too strong upfront for Gloucester.
Sunday sees three massive games, two of which come from pool one. Leinster are in the driving seat and will all but confirm a quarter final berth with a win at Castres, which they may well do – although the French champions have named a strong team. The Saints will go out all guns blazing in Swansea, knowing a bonus point victory over the Ospreys would leave them in with a chance of qualifying, should Leinster slip up.
The weekend culminates in mouthwatering fashion, with Sarries’ trip to Toulouse in probably the most difficult game to call of the weekend. Connacht have already shown that winning at the Ernest Wallon is eminently possible, but after that slip Toulouse will be on their guard, and having won away in London will be sniffing top spot and a home quarter final. Sarries, however, have been ripping up the Premiership and will back themselves to win anywhere, especially with a pack that has an unreal depth to it. In fact, this should be an epic forward battle for the full 80 minutes – the players on the bench include Gurthro Steenkamp, Romain Millo-Chluski, Joe Tekori, Matt Stevens and Ernst Joubert.
Ulster Rugby v Montpellier: Ulster by 15
Racing Métro v Scarlets: Racing by 7
Harlequins v Clermont Auvergne: Harlequins by 2
Treviso v Leicester Tigers: Tigers by 8
Exeter Chiefs v Glasgow Warriors: Exeter by 5
Connacht v Zebre: Connacht by 15
Toulon v Cardiff Blues: Toulon by 14
Edinburgh Rugby v Perpignan: Edinburgh by 3
Gloucester Rugby v Munster: Munster by 6
Ospreys v Northampton Saints: Ospreys by 4
Castres Olympique v Leinster: Leinster by 5
Toulouse v Saracens: Toulouse by 3
By Jamie Hosie
Follow Jamie on Twitter: @jhosie43
Photo by: Patrick Khachfe / Onside Images