The final round of pool games sees plenty left to play for, even if it is just Amlin qualification places in some cases. Friday night brings the resolution of pool one, with Northampton entertaining Castres and Leinster playing the Ospreys. Two wins for the home sides should be on the cards, quite possibly with bonus points, which would mean Leinster go through as comfortable pool winners, although they may not get a home quarter final. A bonus point win for the Saints would probably see them enter the Amlin.
Saturday’s early games come from pool three, where Toulouse have a home quarter final all but guaranteed with an away trip to Zebre an almost surefire five points. To book their place in the quarter finals, Saracens just need a win at home to Connacht, which they should get, but will be a little more wary than usual given the province’s heroics at the Ernest Wallon earlier in the season.
Toulon have sauntered through pool two without ever really getting out of third gear (for some of the names in their ranks, they shouldn’t be losing to any of their pool-mates), but credit must go to Cardiff, Exeter and Glasgow for keeping things competitive. Scotstoun isn’t an easy place to win, and Glasgow will be full of confidence after last weekend, but the galacticos from the South of France should have enough to get a win on Saturday. Cardiff, who battled bravely against the champions last weekend, will have to work hard to beat a plucky Exeter side, but at the Arms Park they should do so.
Saturday evening brings the game of the round, as Ulster travel to Leicester in a bid to become the only unbeaten team to reach the knockout stages. The Tigers haven’t lost at home in Europe since Munster stormed Welford Road in 2006, but its walls have been shaky this season, with a loss and two draws to teams above them in the table. Still, with the Youngs-Flood-Allen axis back together for the first time since October, it is still a daunting task for the Ulstermen. It is a mouthwatering prospect and incredibly tough to call, but home advantage just swings things Leicester’s way. Montpellier will win the dead rubber against Treviso comfortably.
Munster have already guaranteed top spot of pool six, but will be chasing maximum points against Edinburgh in search of a home quarter-final. They’ve named a strong-looking team, and with the likes of JJ Hanrahan and Simon Zebo on the bench, there will be plenty of attacking endeavour right until the final whistle. Gloucester have named a reasonably decent team for their trip to Perpignan, but few will expect them to get anything from their trip to the Aimé Giral, in a raucous atmosphere like few else and against a Perpignan pack that includes former Gloucesterman Luke Narraway.
The final pool to be resolved is number four, which means Clermont will be in the enviable position of knowing exactly what they need out of their home game against Racing Métro to secure a home quarter final. Not that it would make that much difference, mind, as Racing have looked at best abject and at worst abysmal this season. In this fixture in the Top 14, they were crushed 47-14. Expect a similarly large margin this weekend. Elsewhere Harlequins travel to the Parc Y Scarlets with nothing more than pride on the line, and there will be plenty of it at stake, too, as they look to avenge the loss at the Stoop in round one. The Scarlets were mightily impressive last weekend, but Quins were also excellent against Clermont and could come away with a win this time.
Leinster v Ospreys: Leinster by 10
Northampton Saints v Castres: Saints by 16
Saracens v Connacht: Saracens by 16
Zebre v Toulouse: Toulouse by 30
Cardiff Blues v Exeter Chiefs: Cardiff by 3
Glasgow Warriors v Toulon: Toulon by 7
Leicester Tigers v Ulster: Tigers by 2
Montpellier v Benetton Treviso: Montpellier by 25
Munster v Edinburgh: Munster by 13
Perpignan v Gloucester: Perpignan by 12
Scarlets v Harlequins: Harlequins by 3
Clermont Auvergne v Racing Métro: Clermont by 26
How do you see the weekend playing out?
By Jamie Hosie
Follow Jamie on Twitter: @jhosie43