RWU HQ – They’re back! Our Six-Pack Panel is shaking off the rust and have prepared their inaugural European Champions Cup Picks. We’ve got those, plus a look at the fixtures set for Weekend 1.
Harlequins v. Castres: Both sides have been struggling in their domestic leagues, so an opening European fixture provides some fine drama for both sides. Quins have home field advantage at the Stoop, but have been unable to progress deep into the Heineken Cup in the past. An opening fixture that will set the tone for both sides, look for each to come out strong in a potentially low-scoring affair.
SIX-PACK: It goes 4-2 in favor of Quins as Castres man Harrington bets against his local side, with Yeats going against the English and JWB inexplicably backing Castres.
Sale v. Munster: Sale have been handed a beast of a match in their return to Europe’s premiere club competition. Though they get to face Munster at home, the red clad Irishmen will enter the match as strong favorites. Danny Cipriani has been in fine form for the Sharks, but many observers would be hard put to name another three members of the Sale side. No such issues for Munster, who continue to boast an impressive array of international talent, week in and week out.
SIX-PACK: This was another 4-2 split, with the men of Munster coming out as the favorites over the men from Northern England. Munster’s Pedigree appears to be the determining factor.
Saracens v. Clermont: The most glamourous fixture of the first round is also the most difficult to call. Sarries beat Clermont comprehensively in their last matchup, a Heineken Cup semi-final which may be the greatest single match ever played by the London side. Clermont will be looking for revenge, but they are clearly not the dominant side of years past.
SIX-PACK: It was nearly unanimous with Yeats holding out, on the account that he refuses to support any English side.
Glasgow v. Bath: On the other end of the spectrum, quiet competitors Glasgow and Bath will begin their campaigns with a crucial match. Each side hopes to progress into the knockout rounds, with Glasgow’s impressive showing in the Pro12 last year serving as a real building block for Scottish club rugby. Though Bath’s move for Steffon Armitage has been mooted for the moment, they are a side with real ambition, and thus far, real flair. The Scotsun can become a cauldron, and it may be so for one of the most crucial first round fixtures.
SIX-PACK: Same as with the Saracens game. Yeats going against Bath as they are English and therefore the bad guys.
Racing v. Northampton: Though Racing Metro’s Galactico policy has yet to come to fruition, they are a vastly improved side over years past. Northampton boasts what might be the most impressive pack in European rugby, and can bully almost any side up front. This will be a classic forwards versus backs matchup, where each side has the concrete advantage in one area of the field. How well the Stade Francaise co-operates with attacking rugby may prove the determinative factor.
SIX-PACK: 4-2 split again. This time the Englishmen show a sense national pride as they pick Northampton, while the other 4 go with Racing.
Leicester v. Ulster: Leicester are surely wishing that they had a few more weeks to get their house in order before facing the Irish giants, but the match has arrived, and the Tigers go to war with the bodies they have (not many). Ulster enter the game (and the pool of death) as strong favorites, but somebody will have to be the odd man out. In a week of many important first round clashes, this might be the one with the biggest impact after everything plays out.
SIX-PACK: In shock Loyd goes with Leicester while Leicester local boy Hall abandons his hometown team to join the rest of the staff in a 5-1 split.
Toulouse v. Montpellier: Toulouse has been called the “French Leicester” for their early season struggles. However, they may have turned the corner with an impressive win over Toulon last weekend, and Montpellier are a strong but unexceptional side. Now is the time for Toulouse to show if they can up their game when it matters. In the past, they have, and the smart money says that they will again.
SIX-PACK: Having made a knack of trusting his guy while the rest of the staff tells him something different JWB has picked Montpellier, while the rest of the staff picks Toulouse.
Toulon v. Scarlets: The second match of the weekend in a murderous pool that includes Leicester and Ulster has Welsh minnows Scarlets facing off against Toulon. While Scarlets have played some exciting rugby over the past few weeks, they do not have the power to compete with the reigning European champions. A victory for Scarlets would be an upset for the ages- possible, but certainly not likely.
SIX-PACK: The first time all 6 members of the six pack agree on one match. They are unified in their belief that Scarlets will be slaughtered by Touloun.
Leinster v. Wasps: Leinster are looking to restore some of the luster to their name after a relatively early exit last season. Wasps are probably a good place to start. Though the English side has impressed through the first six rounds of domestic competition, it is a big step up for Christian Wade and company. Ian Madigan has much to prove, and a limited time to do so before the autumn internationals, so this might turn into a statement game for the Dublin club.
SIX-PACK: The second unanimous pick of the weekend as the team sees Leinster putting Wasps to the sword in Dublin.
Here is a recap of the Six-Pack’s picks and Picks of the Week. Go bet the house on them.
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, Karen Ritter , Jamie Wall, Jake Frechette and Declan Yeats, respectively.