Thursday, December 6, 2012

Hide the remote, and make your excuses, the Heineken Cup is back!

Just when you thought the Autumn internationals had set the bar really high for quality rugby…along comes the Heineken Cup! And for the Irish clubs, there’s a set of season defining matches coming up in the next two weeks.

Starting off with Leinster, who have had a fairly uneven season so far by their standards. They are third in the Rabo, and 2nd in their pool behind Clermont in the HC. And it’s the French colossus they face away and home in the next two weeks. Leinster could lose away and still make it through…but only just, and they’d a few results to go their way, so this is a must win match. Just to make the mountain they have to climb a little higher, Clermont haven’t lost at home in 3 years. Gulp! Apart from O’Driscoll and Kearney, Leinster have a full squad to pick from.  Clermont may be missing a few, but their bench is likely to feature several leading internationals.  I think Leinster can cover for their losses in the back line, to me it’s how the pack is going to play, and whether we can compete with only one top quality lock. It’s going to be full bodied high intensity rugby. I have to say I’m expecting Clermont to win, but here’s hoping.

Connacht are going to be lucky to pinch anything of Biarritz, but the Frenchmen are pretty uneven, especially away, it’s not impossible, and I kind of fancy Connacht here.

Northampton Ulster is a heavyweight clash of note. Saints must hate the sight of Irish teams, now is it Ulster’s turn to bring the pain? From where I’m sitting, yes, I think that even though Saints are 3rd in the Premiership, they don’t have the BMT to match the way Ulster are rolling. Northampton have just found out that they are losing Mujati and Tongahuia – which must be brilliant news for the rest of the Premiership props! – but that’s the sort of thing that can unsettle a team. So I’m going with Bowe, Pienaar and co to come up with an away win.

Finally for the Irish provinces, Munster entertain Saracens in another top, top quality clash. Saracens have a healthy quota of English players, who will be still in the stratosphere from beating the All Blacks last weekend. CJ Stander is a loss after his storming showing against Glasgow, Romain Poite, who’s also injured, probably not as much!  Saracens are going to be trying to bring their size in to play, and bash Munster down. I hope they do, because that’s Munster’s game, and it’s not often Munster get Munstered. I going with the home team at Thomond.

Toulouse Ospreys, could be good as well, but I hope the Ospreys don’t play like Wales!

Heineken Cup
Friday , December 7
Connacht vs Biarritz 20:00
Glasgow vs Castres 
Northampton vs Ulster 20:00
Saturday , December 8
Munster vs Saracens 18:00
Racing Metro 92 vs Edinburgh 18:00
Toulouse vs Ospreys 13:35
Zebre vs Harlequins 13:35
Scarlets vs Exeter 13:35
Sale vs Toulon 15:40
Sunday , December 9
Leicester vs Benetton Treviso 15:00
Clermont Auvergne vs Leinster 15:00
Cardiff Blues vs Montpellier 12:45

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