1. So who’s made it so far?
This is the Heineken Cup and it can be one of the most confusing tournaments around when trying to work out who can qualify, so let me do it for you. In Pool 1, Leinster need just a point against Ospreys to progress while Northampton can still go through if they defeat Castres and Leinster slip up. Toulon have qualified from Pool 2 and Toulouse from Pool 3, in which both Saracens and Connacht can still progress, depending on the winner of their game. Pool 4 has seen Clermont progress while in Pool 5 Ulster and Leicester’s match will determine who gets top spot although they have both made the quarter-finals. Munster have also qualified after winning Pool 6.
2. Age is just a number
34-year-old Paul O’Connell was probably the best player not just in Munster’s win over Gloucester, but over the entire weekend. He was the standout performer in Munster’s dominant pack and he put himself around the park like he was a sprightly teenager again, whilst constantly putting his body on the line. Gloucester head coach Nigel Davies called him “phenomenal”.
3. Beware the French
But not just in the Heineken Cup. The home nations had better be careful once the Six Nations comes around. Wesley Fofana was impressive for Clermont while Louis Picamoles led a resurgent Toulouse back-row to victory over Saracens with Jean-Marc Doussain kicking seven penalties. Mathieu Bastareaud put Toulon on the front foot and Brice Dulin, Geoffrey Palis and Remi Tales have been solid for Castres.
4. Italy… Again
So news has just sprung up that Italian rugby president Alfredo Gavazzi is threatening to pull Treviso and Zebre out of the PRO12 as the money invested into the league hasn’t been justified in the sides’ results. Does this mean they won’t partake in next season’s (yes I know, I know, but a man can dream) Heineken Cup? They have been dire this year. Surely an English club and a French club replacing them would be more of a contest?
5. Care’s a wizard
Yes you heard me correctly. Danny Care is a wizard. He may not have had the best game for Harlequins against Clermont but he came up with this little beauty. And yes it may have just been pure luck that it landed in Matt Hopper’s hands but to have the stones to even attempt this is wizardry enough. A special mention to Chris Robshaw as well for his deft chip.
By Calum Gillon (@C_Gillon)
Photo by: Patrick Khachfe / Onside Images