WEST GHANA/USA – Last week we presented you with our Amlin Cup Preview, this week it’s all about the more important and prestigious Heineken Cup. Only teams from the Aviva Premiership, French Top 14 and Rabodirect Pro 12 compete in the H-Cup. The first round of pool play begins this weekend, the 12th of October. With that, here are our predictions of who will come out on top of the respective pools:
1) Saracens: They play some of the best defense of any team in rugby. Their defense is more than enough to stifle the competition and win a top spot.
2) Racing Métro 92: The Racing Men have a healthy mix of both good defense and attack – nothing outstanding, but good enough for second.
3) Edinburgh Rugby: Last year’s semi-finalist is in a tough group. The two favored to finish higher barely edge them but those two seem to just have just have a bit more class.
4) Munster Rugby: Our expectations are low as this team is rebuilding under their new coach.
1) Toulouse: They are experienced at competing on two fronts and succeeding. Expect more of the same.
2) Leicester Tigers: Like Toulouse, they will be strong again – despite an off-performance last year.
3) Ospreys: They are getting better but the top two have a better pedigree.
4) Benetton Treviso: The Italians will be the Pool 2 whipping boys.
1) Biarritz Olympique: We will see this team move on. They are experienced campaigners in a weak group.
2) Harlequins: They will build on their domestic form and devour the lesser two teams in the pool.
3) Connacht Rugby: Out-matched and out-gunned, you might say they have no business playing with the big boys.
4) Zebre: Same as Connacht, but with an even higher learning curve.
1) Ulster Rugby: Last year’s runner-up is finally in a positive upturn phase of their re-building and undefeated to date. We believe this will continue with a first place finish. They will also be spurred on by the Nevin Spence tragedy.
2) Northampton Saints: They have consistently achieved more success in their domestic competition than the other teams in their pool. This will make a difference for them.
3) Castres Olympique: The toll of the French league will hurt Castres. They will crumble on the European front since it is the easiest to sacrifice.
4) Glasgow Warriors: Like Zebre in Pool 3, they are simply overmatched. But their learning curve is due to a new and first-time head coach.
1) Leinster Rugby: The defending Champs, so no big surprise.
2) ASM Clermont Auvergne: Made the Semis just to lose to Leinster, don’t be surprised if they end up 1 and Leinster 2.
3) Scarlets: Like Ospreys; they are improving but the cream of the competition are in this group, so they are out of luck.
4) Exeter Chiefs: As is the case with the Scarlets, the rest of the group is just too good.
1) Toulon: Their talent pool and player depth is arguably the deepest in the competition.
2) Montpellier: Their biggest positive is that they are better than the bottom two teams in the pool.
3) Cardiff Blues: I think they will be the Welsh club that comes closest to making it out of pool play, but will ultimately still come up short.
4) Sale Sharks: Will be too focused on the domestic front to properly focus on Europe.
Quarter-Final teams will be the 5 pool winners and the 2 second-place teams with the best record and point totals. The top 4 will host the bottom 4 in a traditional knock-out competition of 1 v 8, 2 v 7, etc. This is the group I foresee making up that group, feel free to disagree:
4) Leinster Rugby
5) Northampton Saints
6) Biarritz Olympique
7) Leicester Tigers
8) ASM Clermont Auvergne
Changing gears, we just wanted to remind all of you to check out the Counter-Rucking Cancer fundraiser. You or your mates can donate online. It only takes a moment and your consideration is greatly appreciated.
That is it for me for now. Please feel free to comment below, look for and “Like” our Facebook Rugby Wrap Up Page and follow us on Twitter @RugbyWrapUp, @JunoirBlaber, @Declan Yeats and @Mathew Drew Turner, respectively.
And as always, stay low and keep pumping those legs.