The #Scrumdown - Champions Cup preview & predictions
Rugby Union : Jonathan Hatch puts it on the line again with his Champions Cup predictions.
Europe’s premier domestic competition is back, and we’ve got some mouth-watering double headers on our hands over the next 2 weekends. This is where championship tilts really start to take shape, and with the two top teams playing in each group, it is sure to serve up some stunning games. Lets have a look at some of the best.
Pool 1 – La Rochelle vs Wasps
La Rochelle began their first foray into the Champions Cup with sensational wins over Ulster and Harlequins. They now go head-to-head with former champions Wasps, who have improved immensely since round 2. Two victories for La Rochelle would virtually see them through, but don’t write off Wasps. They may not be quite as strong as last season, but they know how to win.
Pool 2 – Saracens vs Clermont
This tie has lost its sheen somewhat recently due to Saracens losing their last 5. To be fair, they missed a lot of players in the international window, and all of the games they lost were by a couple of points, but it’s a bizarre development from a team who have looked so unbeatable in recent seasons. This should still be a monumental encounter between two teams that have excelled in this competition this decade.
Pool 3 – Exeter vs Leinster
This is going to be fantastic. Exeter are in imperious form right now, demolishing Bath last week following a good win over Saracens the week before. But, this is Leinster, one of the most successful European teams in recent history. Between them, they’ve won 80% of their league games this season, and both play brilliant, total rugby. This is definitely the tie of the weekend.
Pool 4 – Munster vs Leicester
A grand rivalry between two titans of the European game continues over the next couple of weekends. Both are in decent nick going in to the game, and this could be a clash of styles as Munster’s monstrous pack goes up against Leicester’s exhilarating backline. This is another pearl of a game in a weekend that has an abundance of them.
Pool 5 – Toulon vs Bath
This tie is a very intriguing one. Toulon have failed to hit top gear this season, slumping to 7th in the Top 14. However, the three time champions still have a ridiculously good team on paper, even if it’s an old one. On the other hand, Bath have been playing with a bare bones squad of late, but have been winning more often than not. Very much underachievers vs overachievers. It’s going to be close.
Best of the rest – Harlequins vs Ulster
Both teams have an outside chance of qualifying, and Quins should be flying having beaten Saracens twice in the last month. This should be pretty tasty.
Player to watch – Nick Isiekwe
Maro Itoje fractured his jaw last week, and will be out for a while. This leaves a huge hole in Saracens’ leadership. The young second row picked up his first England cap in the Autumn, and will now be called upon to be a leader on the pitch as his team enter their titanic double header against Clermont.
I’ve been very average at this so far, so please don’t waste your money on my predictions. Nonetheless, it’s rather a fun thing to do, so. . .
La Rochelle beat Wasps
Harlequins beat Ulster
Saracens lose to Clermont
Northampton lose to Ospreys
Glasgow beat Montpellier
Exeter beat Leinster
Castres beat Racing 92
Munster beat Leicester
Scarlets beat Treviso
Toulon beat Bath