Heineken Cup Round 3: Predictions

The pre-festive season Heineken Cup double headers are here – always an entertaining time in the rugby calendar, and one that, cliché as it may be, goes a long way to deciding the outcome of the pool stages.

Friday night kicks off with an important game at the Arms Park, as Cardiff welcome Glasgow. One point separates all four teams in the pool, so there is all to play for over the next two weeks. Cardiff were the definition of Jekyll and Hyde in the opening two rounds – woeful at Exeter, brilliant against Toulon. That makes this game very difficult to call, but given Glasgow’s impressive start to the season, I’m backing them to sneak an important away win and keep the pressure on Exeter and Toulon. Elsewhere Castres welcome the Ospreys to France – with the Welsh region all but out of the competition, Castres should record a relatively easy win.

Saturday starts with the other game from pool two, Exeter against Toulon. The Chiefs are a match for anyone at Sandy Park, but have come unstuck against top French opposition before, having lost heavily to Clermont last season. Toulon do not travel well, as goes the cliché about French sides, and while it will be close I’d still expect them to get a win. Undoubtedly the highlight of the weekend, however, comes from Franklin’s Gardens, where Northampton take on Leinster in a repeat of the epic 2011 final. The Saints have never beaten Leinster in the Heineken Cup, but have looked a different team this season. Even without the influential Ben Foden, I’m backing them to beat the Irish giants and keep pool one competitive.

Other big games on Saturday include Harlequins’ trip to Paris to take on a Racing Métro side who have not hit anywhere near the levels they were predicted to this season. While Quins have also struggled at times, they have impressed recently, and as shock results go this wouldn’t actually be a major one. In need of a win to keep their quarter final hopes alive, I think the Londoners could come away from Paris with a tight win. The other game in that pool sees Scarlets make the daunting trip to Stade Marcel Michelin – in front of their home fans Clermont are one of the best club teams in world rugby, and should record a comfortable win against the Welsh region.

Sunday’s headline fixture comes from pool five, as the Tigers welcome Montpellier to Welford Road. The French side are on a two game losing streak in the Top 14, while they were also dealt a huge blow to their qualification chances in this competition as they lost comprehensively to Ulster at home in the last round. They desperately need a win, but have only done so away from home twice this season – to Bordeaux and Treviso – so Welford Road would hardly be their location of choice to play this weekend. Look out for Rene Ranger in their backline, however, who is capable of magic. The Tigers will be happy with their six points from the opening two rounds, but Ulster’s win in France does complicate things for them – they need, at the very least, to win comfortably this weekend. Despite their injury issues, they should do so.

Also on Sunday, Perpignan travel to Thomond Park to take on Munster, in a game the Irish outfit will fancy themselves to win comfortably. They have been in great form this season, although their shock loss to Edinburgh in the opening round means they will be targeting a maximum five points. The weekend wraps-up in the south of France, as Toulouse welcome lowly Connacht to the Ernest Wallon. The French giants have been imperious at home, and could rack up a cricket score against the ailing Irish province.

SuperBru predictions:

Cardiff Blues v Glasgow Warriors: Glasgow by 4
Castres v Ospreys: Castres by 13
Exeter Chiefs v Toulon: Toulon by 10
Zebre v Saracens: Saracens by 25
Clermont Auvergne v Scarlets: Clermont by 18
Racing Métro v Harlequins: Harlequins by 3
Northampton Saints v Leinster: Northampton by 2
Ulster v Treviso: Ulster by 15
Munster v Perpignan: Munster by 12
Edinburgh v Gloucester: Edinburgh by 5
Leicester Tigers v Montpellier: Leicester by 9
Toulouse v Connacht: Toulouse by 38

By Jamie Hosie
Follow Jamie on Twitter: @jhosie43

Photo by: Patrick Khachfe / Onside Images

17 thoughts on “Heineken Cup Round 3: Predictions

  1. I’d be astounded if we (Quins) come away from Paris with a win, seeing how the game is being played in Nantes! ;-)

  2. Don’t fancy Quins to turn over Racing, too much forward power and Quins chances of progressing are pretty close to zero already.

    1. Saints could have had Christian Cullen at fullback and they’d still have been walloped by that Leinster performance. Outplayed every single man in the Saints team. Stunning Leinster performance.

      As an aside – maybe Leinster/Ulster/Munster “rest” players regularly because they’re that good? That is, making the Pro 12 have more strict qual probably wouldn’t change Irish provinces approach as they have good enough squads anyway. Look at what Leinster did to one of the most eminent sides in the PRL.

      1. Leinster / Ulster / Munster typically only rest players that are centrally contracted to the IRFU. It is the IRFU that owns their contracts and the IRFU that sets strict rules on how much R&R they get prior during and after International matches. I have yet to see or witness Leinster (my own team) excessively resting players.

        The IRFU central contracts mean that provinces are forced to blood new players while the elite players are being rested. This showed in the match at Franklin’s Gardens when Leinster had much more strength in depth than NH. Even their subs were internationals.

      2. I should add to that. Come Feb / Mar / April Leinster will be stripped of all of the Internationals, even young non-elite players, as the 6 nations is played out. The side that started on Saturday would be entirely different. It will be well into April before Leinster get their squad back together but you don’t hear Wray or McCafferty talking about that.

        English sides do not get impacted to the same extent so there are pros and cons to having centrally contracted players.

        1. Completely agree with you Paolo – in case it wasn’t clear my point was that all the talk of Leinster etc. resting players for the Pro 12, and hence this giving them an advantage in the HC, is irrelevant. Even if the Pro 12 (or rather, when) switches to top6/8/whatever for HC qual then Linster will still rest players because their squad is good enough to do that. So making the pro 12 more “meritocratic”, a stated aim of the RCC tournament in order to avoid this “resting” advantage, will not make Leinster any weaker in the HC. They just are that much better than most of the other teams in it.

  3. Perhaps the English clubs should leave the ERC after all. We need better opposition to play against and we had a far tougher game at the Liberty Stadium against the Ospreys.

    Still as we are so often told by the English clubs-their league is so much better and the Pro12 is so devalued a tournament.

    Oh yes, that’s why no English club has won the ERC since 2007.

    As a famous man said some 2,000 years ago ‘Remove the plank from thine own eye before you remove the splinter from that of your brother’s’

    1. Don’t confuse the PRC pr campaign for the view of the fans. I think most of us realise that our clubs are decent but not elite.

      1. When Leicester don’t have a horrendous amount of injuries and players away on international duty, they can go toe to toe with any club in the world.

    2. I agree with Staggy that a lot of fans don’t think that but I have seen enough bilge on Twitter to know there is a sizeable chunk of English rugby “fans” out there who think they have only not won the HC due to a) salary cap b) those cheating Irish teams resting their players in a comp that does not have relegation. As yesterday showed, it’s not that simple. Leinster et al rest players in the Pro 12 because they have excellent squads and depth such that they can rest “first choice” players, still top the Pro 12, and then wallop top end Aviva sides.

    3. From a European perspective, out of 12 games, only 2 games failed to inspire someone in some form or another. Leicester v Montpellier for the neutral, Clermont v Scarlets for the power, Northampton v Leinster for the intensity, Exeter v Toulon for the purist, Toulouse v Connacht for dreamers & Munster v Perpignan for the … well Munstermen.

      This conversation should not be a PRL bashing exercise. The objective should be that we have an all inclusive, fair & equitable competition next year (& beyond) with a long term plan in place to expand it beyond the existing territory. However, it should be run by those who have the interests of the current minority at the centre of their thoughts. ie NOT Mark McCafferty OR Pierre Camou.

      If we fail, professional rugby union worldwide will tumble into financial meltdown.

  4. Blues were brilliant on Friday night, what a win. Patchell man of the match. Could be a good bet for our RWC 10…..

  5. It was a mainly Leinster that run NZ so close. English teams don’t need to play better opposition, they just need to play better. There’s a lot of talent there!

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