Heineken Cup Preview and Expert Six-Pack Picks

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The ultimate prize in European rugby
The ultimate prize in European rugby

TOULON, FRANCE– This is it! It is the now time for the playoffs of the Heineken Cup. You either win or you go home. There will be no quarter given, no quarter requested (in American jargon,  quarter as in shelter or boarding). Now that we are done with all the hyperbole ofhow massive this weekend’s action will be, we have a preview of each match and combined it with the six-pack’s picks. This article will be as packed with action as the games. So strap in, don’t forget to breathe and here comes the  RWU Heineken Cup Preview.. .

Luke McAlister
Luke McAlister

Munster v Toulouse (#MunvTls)
This is not the Munster of old. There is no Jerry Flannery or Ronan O’Gara. Though Paul O’Connell will still be there, putting the fear of god and the fire of the red province in all the boy’s hearts. Munster has never been scared of a street fight kind of game and that is what they will likely be in for. Toulouse comes into this game inconsistent form. That has been their story all season, however, should they click and turn it on, like the French National team, it could be a dangerous for Munster. Toulouse could be without their first choice  tighthead prop, Census Johnston, openside flanker, Yannick Nyanga, eightman Louis Picamoles, and fly half Luke McAllister. And with that injury total and still no Top14 playoff guaranteed, the team may not be well focused on progression.

Here are the Six-Pack’s picks:
Blaber: Munster; At home and Toulouse have too many injuries and are more focused on making the Top14 playoffs. 
Harrington: Munster; Toulouse’s away record is pretty dismal this season – Fortress Thomond is not likely to fall this time.
Yeats: Munster, The start of a special weekend for the Irish. (Pick of the Week)
Loyd: Munster to grind out a hard win against an injured but tough Toulouse side.
Hall:  Munster; The Irishmen have gone too long without tasting real European success, and they will batter the French at Thormond Park to reach the semis  (Pick of the Week)
JWB:  Munster; They just look like the more in form side, right now.

Mullar and Pienaar
Mullar and Pienaar

Ulster v Saracens (#UlsvSar)
In a rematch of the 2013 quarterfinal, Ulster will welcome Saracens to Ravenhill. Ulster seem to love home cooking of Ravenhill. Lead by the South African dynamic duo of Johan Muller and Ruan Pienaar along with more than a handful of Ireland internationals, a full complement Ulster side at home are more than handful. However if there is one side more than prepared to grind out a win on the road, it will be Saracens. Lead by the large contingent of England internationals, including flyhalf Owen Farrell, Prop Mako Vunipola and Eightman Billy Vunipola , the Sarries know how to grind out wins, more so than they know how to play wide open rugby so the have the ability and talent to pull off a road win.

Here are the Six-Pack’s picks:
Blaber: Saracens; The Sarries seem a bit too clinical for this match and Ulster have struggled to find form all season. (Pick of the Week)  
Harrington: Just have a little feeling this could be Ulster’s year. If they can avoid Toulon until the big day in Cardiff, that is…(Pick of the Week)
Yeats: Ulster; The Nordies show their Irish pride and vanquish the evil English!
Loyd: Saracens; They have too much all round quality even at Ravenhill.
Hall: Ulster; It is exceptionally difficult tot win away from home in the Heineken Cup quarterfinals, and though Sarries are in rare form, they have not traveled well at the same stage in the competition in the past.
JWB: Ulster are ravin’ mad at Ravenhill and will have the upper Red Hand with the home crowd against the very formidable #Saracens squad… An “unkindness” is a flock of ravens, by the way.  (Pick of the Week)

Clermont vs Bayonne-au-parc-des-sports-marcel-michelin-Clermont v Leicester (#CrmvLes)
The side with the longest home winning streak in European rugby history is at home for the playoffs. The Clermont fans at Stade Michelin have seen giants of French and European rugby walk away with heads down and dreams shattered. The whole Clermont side had their Thursday training interrupted for dope testing but it appears it was only a minor inconvenience. You can still expect fireworks from the likes of Brock James, Aurélien Rougerie, Sitiveni Sivivatu and Naipolioni Nalaga. Leicester coach Richard Cockerill (who played for Clermont for two years) has said all the pressure is on the Les Jaunards to win and his boys, Manu Tuilagi, Toby Flood, Ben Youngs and Tom Youngs can play freely knowing that no one expects them to win. It will be tempting to see who cracks under the mounting pressure of this game, should it still be in the balance in the dying stages.

Here are the Six-Pack’s picks:
Blaber: If this was Leicester at home, I would give them a chance. But at Stade Michelin. (Pick of the Week)
Harrington: If Thomond is a fortress, Marcel Michelin is a citadel. November 2009 was the last time Clermont failed to win at home. When the final whistle blows in this match…? November 2009 will still be the last time Clermont failed to win at home.
Yeats: I feel sick, what a choice! Come on the French, never the English.
Loyd: Clermont at home should take this, expect huge performance from MANUUUUUU, but unfortunately Clermont have too much experience so should grind it out.
Hall: Clermont: I hated making the pick, but I had to. The Tigers recent revival is owed to a number of factors, but they have not faced any opposition with half the quality of Clermont on their game.
JWB: Every record has to have a start and an end. The end is nigh for the for the Les Jaunards as the Tigers will claw out a historic victory.

Toulon's captain Johny WilkinsonToulon v Leinster (#TlnvLen)
With all due respect to the other 6 teams featured in the other 3 matches of the weekend. This is the main course for the weekend. As heavy as a heavyweight battle gets. The Champions from 2012 versus the champions from 2013. You have a Leinster side packed with 10+ members of the 2014 6 Nations winning side, including the irrepressible Brian O’Driscoll, up against a side with more great players from over 6 countries and 300+ caps between the team members. Though Toulon will be without their first choice locking duo of Bakkies Botha and Ali Williams, their more than  capable replacements, boot of Sir Johnny Wilkinson and the play of Matt Giteau, keep hosts extremely dangerous. Stock up on beers and invest in a catheter, as you won’t want to miss a minute of the action!

Here are the Six-Pack’s picks:
Blaber: Match of the weekend. Anyone’s guess but in a coin flip, I will go for the men in blue since they have BOD and I really do enjoy watching them play.
Harrington: England Game of the weekend, this – but Toulon will have the edge at Stade Mayol. Pilou! Pilou!
Yeats: Leinster to shock those group of mercenaries. The value of being from a county and province and putting on the jersey of your province will shine.
Loyd: Toulon to win this, expect them to pull away late in the second half, just too many game breakers. (Pick of the Week)
Hall: It’s a fantasy year for BOD…only right he goes out with a European championship as well, though Wilkinson deserves something to show for his years of dedication.
JWB: My sweet mother, Margaret Mary McGuirk, Irish to the bone would be proud of me today and the boys of the Emerald Isle, as Leinster becomes part of record sweep.

Here are all of the Six-Pack’s picks:

HcupQuarters

That’s it for now, Feel free to comment below, look for and “Like” our Facebook Rugby Wrap Up Page and follow us on Twitter@RugbyWrapUp,Junoir BlaberDJ EberleNick HallJames HarringtonCody KuxmannJaime LoydKaren Ritter Jamie Wall and Declan Yeats, respectively.

And until the next time… stay low and keep pumping those legs!

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About Junoir Blaber 868 Articles
Born in Osu, Accra, Ghana, West Africa, Junoir Blaber is a rare commodity; while most Ghanians eat, sleep and dream Soccer (football), Junoir is all about Rugby. A self-proclaimed Rugbyologist, he has been involved in Rugby as a ref, coach, administrator and player since Columbus discovered Ohio. His useful/trivial rugby knowledge qualify Blaber as RWU's Senior Correspondent & known in rugby circles as The Rugby Rain Man. He can also be found moonlighting for our American partners at MeetTheMatts.com.