Thursday, December 8, 2011

Return of the Heineken Cup, and Leinster to sack Bath

So it all kicks off again on Friday for the Irish provinces, with Ulster hosting Aironi. Now this has to be 5 points in the bag for Ulster, non negotiable, and to rack up a good points difference just in case that comes into play later, which they should do easily enough.

Connacht get to host Gloucester, and see what they can get out of the Gloucesterians. Gloucester don’t seem to be in a good place at the moment, and they lose this one they’re going to feel a whole lot worse that’s for sure. Well, I’ll stick my neck out and say they’re going down, Brown, in Galway. That’s if Connacht can play the way they did against Quins.

Munster away to Scarlets could be the match of the weekend. What are the bets that O’Gara produces a drop of magic in the last minute to make it three in a row?  Munster have been rocked by the loss of Doug Howlett, leaving a 6 ‘1” hole in their backline. He’s out for the season as well, so I hope they find someone to sign to bridge the gap. Scarlets look like the form Welsh team, with all their internationals back from the World Cup full of confidence. They’ve got the best fly half in Wales in the shape of Rhys Priestland, and Luke Charteris is shaping up to be the best lock in Wales as well. The young guns of Munster had a setback with the Ospreys last week, so is the team going to be able to bounce back this week. There’s a lot of changes going on at Munster, with some of the old heads moving on, and some fantastic new talent coming though. I'd give Scarlets the edge in thi match.

Leinster travel to Bath, a city famed for it’s Georgian architecture, and it’s baths, obviously enough. Bath have some talented players in their squad, but modestly placed at 10th in the Premiership, they are not setting the world alight so far this season. Olly Barkley and David Wilson are players I’ve always rated, but they have just lost captain Moody for a few months.  Leinster meanwhile, are riding high in the Pro 12, and have Gordon D’Arcy, Luke Fitzgerald, Jamie Heaslip and Kevin McLaughlin all back in the frame for selection. I’m going with Leinster to sack Bath.

London Irish face a tricky away game at Racing Metro, and even if the French don’t really seem to get the Heineken Cup, they are normally hard to beat at home. So O/3 for the exiles then :(

Friday, 9 December 2011
Cardiff Blues v Edinburgh, Pl2, 20:00
Harlequins v Toulouse, Pl6, 20:00
Ulster v Aironi, Pl4, 19:30
Saturday, 10 December 2011
Castres v Northampton, Pl1, 13:30
Connacht v Gloucester, Pl6, 13:30
Racing Metro 92 v London Irish, Pl2, 15:40
Saracens v Ospreys, Pl5, 18:00
Scarlets v Munster, Pl1, 15:40
Treviso v Biarritz, Pl5, 13:30
Sunday, 11 December 2011
Bath v Leinster, Pl3, 12:45
Clermont Auvergne v Leicester, Pl4, 15:00
Glasgow v Montpellier, Pl3, 12:45

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