Thursday, October 16, 2014

All you ever wanted to know about 'The Cup Formerly Known as Heineken' - but were afraid to ask!

 Stuart McCloskey rugby player
Stuart McCloskey (picture  

This is quick preview of the snazzily named European Rugby Champions Cup - probably easier to refer to it as the cup formerly known as Heineken  - which is still sponsored by Heineken. I’m just busy selling my house to pay for all the different Sky, BTSports etc packages so I can watch it all.

There are 5 pools,  20 teams, and the teams will be seeded after the round robin matches , with the top 8 seeds progressing. It’s not impossible then, that there may be a pool which no one progresses from. You need to win often, and win big, and at least get losing bonus points. All the pools are below, with each team’s current position in the domestic league.

Pool one, where Munster sit, is easily the hardest. You kind of get the feeling that if they get out of there, they could win it. I’d say they’ll be lucky to make it out, but let’s see. This weekend they have Sale away, which is a must win, can’t see them having too many problems, but ideally they want a 5 pointer. There only problem is hooker –it seems to be difficult to find a good robust hooker in Munster. For Sale maverick Danny Cipriani is the one to watch.

Leinster are in Pool 2, with more modestly placed teams. They are the bookies favourite for  the pool, Castre are their French side and not doing much season, and they have decent records against English sides. Bookies favourites or not for this pool, the way they are playing right now, I think they are going to have a battle to get anywhere. They have Wasps at home this weekend – you can at least expect them to win that, and get off to good start. I’ll be nervous though! They need to watch out for wings  Christian Wade and Salosi Tagicakibau. Apart from prop and loose forward injuries, it’s pretty much full pick for Leinster.

Pool three is where Ulster reside, with Toulon, and Leicester who they visit this weekend. The Tigers have an injury list the length of your arm, and Ulster have claimed a good few scalps off them in the last few years, so they’ll fancy this one. I could absolutely see Ulster get off to a flyer, and if they lose, it won’t be by much. Interesting to see if McCloskey starts, the Ulstermen have an embarrassment of riches in the backline now.

Pool 4 surely presents Glasgow to redeem themselves from last year’s poor showing in the cup formerly known as Heineken, they’re a good team, and this week’s match against an in form Bath should be a thriller.

In pool 5, Northampton are the grande frommage, but there’ll be some interesting match ups with Racing Metro and the Ospresys no doubt.

Connacht meanwhile, have found themselves in a tough group, with Bayonne, Exeter and La Rochelle. They have a history of pulling off big results in these competitions though, so let’s see… They kick off at home against La Rochelle.

Pool 1
Pos    Team               
1    Clermont Auvergne 1       
2    Munster 4       
3    Sale Sharks 10       
4    Saracens 2       

Pool 2
Pos    Team                  
1    Castres 12       
2    Harlequins 7       
3    Leinster 6       
4    Wasps 5       

Pool 3
Pos    Team                   
1    Leicester Tigers 8       
2    Toulon 2       
3    Scarlets 7       
4    Ulster 3       

Pool 4
Pos    Team             
1    Bath 4       
2    Glasgow Warriors 2       
3    Montpellier 4       
4    Toulouse 8       

Pool 5
Pos    Team                
1    Northampton 1       
2    Ospreys 1       
3    Racing Metro Paris 7       
4    Treviso 12       

European Rugby Champions Cup
Friday , October 17
Harlequins vs Castres    19:45
Saturday , October 18
Sale Sharks vs Munster    13:00
Saracens vs Clermont Auvergne    15:15
Leicester vs Ulster    19:45
Glasgow vs Bath    15:15
Racing Metro 92 vs Northampton    17:15
Sunday , October 19
Leinster vs Wasps    17:15
Toulon vs Scarlets    15:15
Toulouse vs Montpellier    13:00
Ospreys vs Benetton Treviso    13:00

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