Saracens v Toulouse
The scare they got at the Sportsground last weekend should be enough to focus the minds of Saracens at home. Toulouse have a great record in the Heineken Cup, but of late they have been less consistent, which includes their form this season in the Top 14. Toulouse will be happy with a losing bonus point away from home. Saracens must win at home to keep their Heineken dreams on track.
Leicester v Treviso
After losing to Ulster last week, Leicester know that a home loss would more or less end their chances of reaching the play-offs. Treviso may take some time to break down, but Leicester at home in Welford Road will wear Treviso down sooner or later. Leicester will also target this game as a winning bonus point to add to the bonus point they won in Ravenhill last week.
Cardiff Blues v Toulon
Toulon are on a mission to win back to back Heineken Cups. Last weekend, for forty minutes, they demolished Glasgow. This weekend they will arrive in Cardiff with the same intent. Cardiff’s form to date gives no indication they can contain Toulon and last week were torn to shreds by Exeter in the first half. In fact if Cardiff do not deliver a strong performance it could be a car wreck at the Arms Park.
Zebre v Connacht
Zebre put up a decent performance last weekend away to Toulouse. They will fancy their chances at home to Connacht, who defeated them in Galway in the first game of this season’s Pro 12. It will be a tight game and Connacht will have to back up the performance they delivered against Saracens. Connacht are struggling with injuries but are still capable of digging out a result.
Leinster v Castres
Castres’ away record in the Heineken Cup is woeful. Leinster are in a good place after an excellent victory last week away to the Ospreys. Castres will arrive at the RDS without much expectation of upsetting Leinster. A win for Leinster gives them control of Pool 1. But despite the love bombing of Castres coming from the Leinster camp, unless Leinster lose the plot and underperform there is only one possible result.
Montpellier v Ulster
A win for Ulster in Monpellier would put them in pole position within their group. But it will take a huge performance from Ulster to achieve that and their away record in the Heineken Cup has been their ‘Achilles Heel’ to date. Montpellier have been showing good form in the Top 14 and like most French teams will be confident of delivering at home. Ulster may even settle for a losing bonus point at this venue.
Scarlets v Racing Metro
Scarlets at home will fancy their chances against Racing, especially after the quality of rugby they delivered against Harlequins at the Stoop last week. But if Racing can contain the Llanelli running game they have the power and physicality to dominate the Scarlets. It will be a game of power versus agility, with the power game to win out.
Win: Racing Metro
Munster v Gloucester,
Another do or die game for Munster at Thomond Park. It is something we have become accustomed to over the years and the outcome is always the same, Munster to get the job done. Gloucester have had first hand experience of this situation in Thomond more than once before and it’s doubtful they really expect things will be any different this time around. At the same time Gloucester are capable of a brand of rugby that could cause Munster problems, but not this weekend.
Northampton v Ospreys
Northampton are a team with strong Heineken ambitions and know all too well that a defest at home after last week’s loss will end that ambition. After being well beaten last week at home to Leinster, the Ospreys will travel to Franklin’s Gardens in more hope than expectation. In fact Northampton will probably target this game as a bonus point win to put them right back in the hunt in Pool 1.
Perpignan v Edinburgh
Perpignan like all French teams at home will deliver a big performance. Despite Edinburgh’s strong showing last week, while beating Munster, they will not have the firepower to contain the Catalans. It would take another huge performance from Edinburgh to upset Perpignan, but that is an unlikely event on French soil.
Glasgow v Exeter
This is a game that could go either way. Glasgow will take great heart from their second half performance last week in Toulon. But it is debatable how much Toulon contributed to that. Exeter had a huge first half performance against Cardiff in Round 1. Again how much Cardiff had to do with that is debatable. It will be a tight game, but given Glasgow’s record at Scotstoun this season, a home win is the most likely outcome.
Clermont v Harlequins
At fortress Stade Marcel Michelin, Clermont have proven to be almost unbeatable. Also, they will still be smarting after their loss in Paris to Racing Métro. The Harlequins form this season, in the Aviva and to Llanelli in Round 1, has been surprisingly poor. It is very hard to see things improving for Harlequins and a loss will effectively end their interest in this season’s Heineken Cup.