PARIS, FRANCE: The final two weekends of group action in the Heineken Cup always bring plenty to the table, as sides attempt to secure their positions in the knockout stages. As the final edition of the Heineken Cup reaches a new crescendo, RugbyWrapUp once again has expert picks and predictions for this weekend’s contests. This weekend’s marquee matchups feature Cleremont facing Harlequins, Saracens visiting Toulouse to do battle with the French giants, and Castres attempting to throw another wrench into Leinster’s path to the quarterfinals.
Some of our experts are happier to see the end of the competition than others. As a quick reminder, the Six Pack consists of West Ghana’s Rugby Rain Man Junoir Blaber, England’s knight of the realm Jamie Loyd, The English East Midlands Machiavellian Rugger Nick Hall, the infamous Ireland National, Declan Yeats, the Irish Born-Castres residing, lean(ish), mean(ish) writing machine, James Harrington and contrived Kiwi Co-Host, Johnathan Wicklow Barberie.
In a shocking turn of events, JWB remains in front with an overall record of 36-12, demonstrating a keen eye for upsets while correctly calling the favorites. Right behind him is James Harrington, whose predilection for French sides has kept him from seizing the top spot. Nick managed to get some daylight from Junoir last round, improving his record to 34-14, while a disastrous fourth weekend sunk our Rain Man to last place at 31-17. Jamie Loyd and Declan Yeats remained firmly ensconced in the middle of the pack, tied at 33-15. Whatever happens, James will see some major movement this week as he has departed from the conventional wisdom on a number of his picks, including his continued support of Castres in the competition.
As they do every round, our experts have provided their justification for their picks of the week.
JWB: The Tigers are getting healthier and hungrier and the smell of good food on the Italians’ kits will just make them even more ferocious!
Harrington: Toulouse will be out to prove that Connacht‘s win at Ernest Wallon was an aberration. Unfortunately for Saracens, they’ll be the ones on the receiving end of that proof.
Hall: Leinster absolutely must win this game following their shocking loss at home to Northampton, and for the past four years, the Irishmen have been able to come out on top when needed it. Castres will push them, but I feel confident that the three time champions will come out on top.
Loyd: Gloucester‘s descent into the bottom ranks of the Premiership has been shocking, and I don’t think they’ll be showing too much fight against Munster this weekend, which should mean a double-digit win for the Irishmen.
Yeats: The proud lads from the West country will show those Italians power of Bangers and Mash. A power stronger than any pasta dish, as Connacht will win easily and keeps improving as a province.
Junoir: Leicester desperately need maximum points from this match to move on and with them getting healthier, it spells an ugly affair for Treviso.
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 Blaber, DJ Eberle, Nick Hall, James Harrington, Cody Kuxmann, Jaime Loyd and Declan Yeats, respectively.