NEW YORK, NY – The Champions Cup is back from the week 2 hiatus. There are a few mouthwatering fixtures set for this weekend. On top of the fixtures and out preview of all the action, we have picks from our esteemed Expert Panel. With that, let’s look at the match-ups for the weekend.
Munster v Leicester – This will be one of the clashes of the weekend. Munster are down a game due to their first match being postponed as a result of the death of head coach Axel Foley. So despite have 5 points and a game in hand they will still be hungry. That hunger will serve them well as they face a very tough task in taking on a Leicester Tigers side desperate to stay in the running for first place and a playoff place.
Racing 92 v Glasgow Warriors – Glasgow will have their work cut out for them when they travel to Paris to take on last year’s finals runners-up. Glasgow’s form has been inconsistent this season and they will need to be firing on cylinders to secure a win. After getting a taste of the final last season, Racing will be looking to ensure they return and actually win it and will be ready to go through Glasgow to do it.
Zebre v Toulouse – This will be the least anticipated match of the weekend. As much as the Italian sides try they are often cannon fodder and that will be the fate for Zebre against Toulouse.
Wasps v Connacht – This match-up is the direct opposite of the other one. Two teams who both like to throw the ball around attack from everywhere will go head to head. Wasps do have an high injury list including starting fly-half Danny Ciprani but they also welcome Kurtley Beale to his club debut. Connacht have an injury list of their own but that has never stopped coach Pat Lam‘s side from playing attacking rugby. This game will be won by whichever side’ss forwards can manage enough of a tight game to justify going out wide.
Saracens v Sale – Saracens go into this all-premiership clash of the back of a loss. It is something that hasn’t happened to them that often so expect them to bounce back with a strong effort. It would be great if Sale, lead by USA eagle fly-half AJ MacGinty, can get the win, but they have small chance of an upset. A very small chance.
Toulon v Scarlets – This is another match-up that is likely to be one-sided. Scarlets simply do not have the budget to compete with a club like Toulon. The Scarlets will not go quietly but Toulon at home is a tough ask and it looks like it may be a bridge too far for the boys from Wales.
Northampton Saints v Leinster – Leinster’s struggles to remain a European powerhouse are well documented. Contrary to some of those reports they are not dead yet. As such they will be a tough match-up for a Northampton club at home. The Saints have struggled with their form but write them off at their own peril.
Montpellier v Castres – This is an intriguing match-up. It is a Top 14 clash and the two sides know each other well. The difference here will be, if the Castres attack can breakthrough the stifling Montipol defense. If they can’t expect Montipol to grind out a win.
Ulster v Clermont Auvergne – Ulster at home is tough ask for any side but Clermont is in impressive form so this will be a match well worth watching. Both sides are capable of fireworks in attack so a lot will depend which side can control the overall tempo of the game and remain composed until the final whistle.
Exeter Chiefs v Bordeaux-Begles – Bordeaux has improved their game from last season to this season but unfortunately Exeter has also gone from strength to strength over that past few seasons. The Chiefs are a force to at home and that is what will likely give them the edge they need.
Okay… Now on to our Expert Panel and their European Champions Cup Picks!
Just to review, the Panel is comprised of The Irish-American Werewolf in California Ronan Nelson, contrived Kiwi Johnathan Wicklow Barberie, RWU’s French connection James Harrington of Jamesonrugby, West Ghana’s Rugby Rain Man Junoir Blaber, Paul Bains of DrivingMaul.com, the infamous Ireland National, Declan Yeats, Film expert and Wales Rugby connoisseur Jonny Lewis, and Jeff Pagano of Harpinonrugby.net . They all must pick the winners of each match and a Pick Of The Week, for which they must also provide the margin of victory.
Going into the weekend, Junoir, James and Declan are tied for the lead with Ronan and Paul bringing up the rear. However we are only going into the midway point of pool play, so lots can happen. There is also a six way tie for the Pick of the week lead.
That’s all for now, please feel free to comment below, look for and “Like” our Facebook Rugby Wrap Up Page and follow us on Twitter@: @RugbyWrapUp, @Junoir Blaber, @Ronan Nelson, @JamesOnRugby, @JonnyLewisFilms, @HarpinOnRugby, @DrivingMaul, @MeetTheMatts, @Luke Bienstock, @Ronan Nelson, @Brian C Cole and @Declan Yeats.
And as always, stay low and keep pumping those legs.