Thursday, January 12, 2012

Heineken Cup taster

Leinster have a full bill of health for their encounter in Glasgow, with  Leo Cullen, Luke Fitzgerald, Shane Jennings, Ian Madigan, Eoin O'Malley, Rhys Ruddock and Richardt Strauss all in the frame for selection. Glasgow are in fourth in the Rabid 12, and sit at second in their HC pool behind Leinster. A win here and they could really fancy their chances of topping the group. So this is a big match for Leinster,  Scottish teams have often been stumbling blocks in the past, and they want to win all their remaining matches starting on Sunday, and see if they can get home advantages in the next round. I’ve just watched some of the Bath highlights, and awash with pride I’m going with the Leinstermen to crack Firhill , down the bogeyman Scots, and come away with a win, if not a bonus point.

Ulster take on Leicester at home, in what promises to be a fantastic match. Both teams have put together a good string of results in the last few weeks, something to build on and take into this round of HC matches. Ulster would love to put some daylight between themselves and Clermont, and a win against the Tigers would see them get one foot into the next round. I think Ruan Pienaar is the key to this match, his return and excellent form is driving the team forward, and I’m expecting a home win from them.

Munster have Castres at home and have no recent injury worries to contend with, with even Niall Ronan in the frame for the match. There are several new faces in the Munster team at the moment, but the ethos is the same- stand up and fight!  Castres are bottom of the group, and have never made good tourists. I can’t see them telling all their friends that Limerick is a great place to visit after this weekend either. So Munster with a comfortable win then.

Connacht travel to Toulouse, and won’t disgrace themselves I’m sure. They have nothing to lose, Toulouse will be underestimating them, and I could see Connacht giving Toulouse a fright like they did to Quins.
Exiles take on the Cardiff Blues at the Ma-jet-ski stadium, and on recent form it’s hard to know hat to expect from Irish. Expect the unexpected! For the record, I think they’ll win and throw the whole pool open.
Elsewhere, I’ll try and see the Scarlets Saints match to see two form tams slug it out, and will catch the Saracens Biarritz match as well. Sarries are my dark horse team to go far this tournament.

Heineken Cup Friday , January 13
Racing Metro 92 vs Edinburgh 20:00
Ulster vs Leicester 20:00
Ospreys vs Benetton Treviso 20:00
Saturday , January 14
Scarlets vs Northampton 13:30
Munster vs Castres 15:40
London Irish vs Cardiff Blues 15:40
Montpellier vs Bath 13:00
Aironi Rugby vs Clermont Auvergne 13:30
Toulouse vs Connacht 15:40
Harlequins vs Gloucester 18:00
Sunday , January 15
Glasgow vs Leinster 12:45
Saracens vs Biarritz 15:00

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