The second round of the December double headers is upon us, and after a couple of shock results in last weekend’s pulsating action, there are a few teams with plenty to do over the next few days.
Friday night sees Castres make the trip to Swansea to play the Ospreys. The Welsh region have nothing but pride left to play for in this competition, but having lost all three of their games so far do not underestimate how much that will fire them up. Castres are looking to keep the pace with group leaders Leinster (good luck), but have not travelled well this season and up against an Ospreys team that will be desperate for a win, they could well come unstuck. Friday night’s other fixture is Glasgow against Cardiff, and I expect Glasgow to take their revenge for last weekend’s loss in the Welsh capital.
The biggest game on Saturday comes from Dublin, where Leinster, who were all-conquering last weekend, welcome Northampton, who will be determined to salvage some of their reputation that was left so terribly in tatters as the Irishmen romped to a 40-7 win. I doubt the margin of victory will be the same, but I’d expect Leinster to win again. Exeter travel down to Toulon after putting in an encouraging performance at Sandy Park against the champions, but at home they are a different beast and should win comfortably.
Connacht’s win in France against Toulouse was arguably the biggest shock this tournament has ever seen – when they welcome the aristocrats of French rugby to the Sportsground this weekend, they will be brimming with confidence and looking to get another one over their vastly more wealthy opponents. Something tells me, however, that that result will have woken Toulouse from their slumber, and I’m backing them to win, and win well, this weekend. Munster, meanwhile, travel to Perpignan, such a tough place to come away with a result – but I’ve a feeling they’ll do just that. It’ll be very close though.
The two biggest games on Sunday are Anglo-French affairs. Another unexpected result from the last round was Harlequins’ victory over Racing Métro (in Nantes, not Paris, as I erroneously published this time last week!), and it is one they will be confident of repeating at the Stoop this weekend. Racing have stellar names in abundance, but for whatever reason they simply have not performed this season. After a poor start to the group, suddenly Quins look like they’re back in contention for the knockout rounds. The Tigers, meanwhile, take on Montpellier in a repeat of what was a hugely entertaining game at Welford Road last weekend. The Frenchmen need to win, and win well, to stand any chance of going through, but you just wonder if their focus may now have drifted back to the Top 14. Leicester could well come away victorious from that one, but it should be tight.
Ospreys v Castres: Ospreys by 7
Glasgow Warriors v Cardiff Blues: Glasgow by 14
Toulon v Exeter Chiefs: Toulon by 10
Treviso v Ulster: Ulster by 14
Saracens v Zebre: Saracens by 35
Scarlets v Clermont Auvergne: Clermont by 3
Perpignan v Munster: Munster by 2
Leinster v Northampton: Leinster by 10
Connacht v Toulouse: Toulouse by 20
Harlequins v Racing Métro: Harlequins by 8
Gloucester v Edinburgh: Gloucester by 20
Montpellier v Leicester Tigers: Tigers by 3
By Jamie Hosie
Follow Jamie on Twitter: @jhosie43
Photo by: Patrick Khachfe / Onside Images