A great weekend of European fixtures ahead! The MaulOver Podcast boys give us their thoughts and predictions… Should be some weekend of rugby!!!
Friday 20th January
Castres v Leinster
Castres are very nearly done in this year’s tournament, after a narrow loss at Franklin’s Gardens left them needing a miracle to qualify and might as well head back to their founding father’s bar until the Top 14 resumes. Leinster will want to make sure of a home tie in the next round. The Irishmen will be sky-high after pulling down Montpellier’s pants last week, Jack Conan is fresh from a hat-trick and Garry Ringrose play resembles Brian O’Driscoll more with every passing week.
Ben – Leinster by 22, Russ – Leinster by 15, George – Castres by 6, Doug – Castres by 3, Phil – Castres by 6
Montpellier v Northampton
Montpellier can still qualify from the group but will need to improve from the train-wreck of Dublin last week. Frans Steyn will not be available to attempt a beheading of the visiting fly half, nevertheless, the home side will hope that the combined thirty-six stone of their Fijian wingers will see a lot more of the ball this week. Saints fans can travel safe in the knowledge that Montpellier is one of the nicest towns in the south of France, there are far worse places to watch the second team play.
Ben – Mont by 18, Russ – Mont by 12, George – Mont by 9, Doug – Mont by 10, Phil – Mont by 1
Saturday 21st January
Leicester v Glasgow
The Tigers exited the Champions Cup with a whimper, rolling over and having their bellies scratched in Paris, and have little to play for but pride in their final fixture. Glasgow in contrast need every point they can muster in their bid to seize one of the runners-up qualification spots. The Warriors have been impressive in Europe this season and swarmed all over Leicester in the first round. Josh Strauss will be eager to repeat his fine performance in last week’s narrow defeat to Munster and Finn Russell will continue to pull the strings.
Ben – Glasgow by 4, Russ – Leicester by 8, George – Glasgow by 12, Doug – Glasgow by 2, Phil – Glasgow by 22
Munster v Racing
Munster still need points to secure a home tie and will be confident of continuing their consistent performances in this year’s tournament. Conor Murray may be unavailable after his George North impersonation in Glasgow but CJ Stander will lead the impressive Munster pack with his usual brutal ball carrying effort. Racing, having spent much of the year resembling a performance art project representation of the Gallic shrug, demolished Leicester once it was too late to make an impression on the tournament. They will have their new-found resolve sorely tested by a trip to a fired up Thomond Park.
Ben – Munster by 21, Russ – Munster by 15, George – Munster by 8, Doug – Munster by 15, Phil – Munster by 15
Sale v Scarlets
Despite a gutsy performance in Toulon Sale still sit quietly on zero points and are rather hoping they can leave their pool before anyone notices they were there in the first place. Scarlets can look back on this year’s efforts with pride, having beaten Toulon and held Saracens to a draw. They will fancy their chances of an away win as the likes of Scott Williams and Samson Lee aim to enhance their chances of a Six Nations call-up.
Ben – Scarlets by 2, Russ – Scarlets by 7, George – Scarlets by 16, Doug – Scarlets by 12, Doug – Scarlets by 5
Saracens v Toulon
Both sides need points from this tie, Saracens have drawn two games in a row but can summon up memories of their magnificent win at the Stade Mayol. Despite injuries, particularly in the pack, Owen Farrell and Alex Lozowski have kept Saracens ticking over and Chris Ashton has not forgotten the way to the try line during his self-inflicted absence. Toulon have an outside chance of qualifying as a runner up but will need a bonus point win in London, if Mike Ford is stopped from installing a crepe stand behind Saracens posts to motivate Mathieu Bastareaud, he will instead rely on Ma’a Nonu and Bryan Habana to roll back the years.
Ben – Saracens by 5, Russ – Saracens by 10, George – Toulon by 2, Doug – Saracens by 10, Phil – Saracens by 25
Clermont v Exeter
Exeter have only just started to walk properly following the visit of Clermont in the Autumn but they travel in the knowledge that a win against the odds might see them qualify by the skin of their teeth. Jack Nowell continues to produce all action performances and Thomas Waldrom has been snaffling tries like loose bread rolls. Clermont are through but will want to sign off with a win. Wesley Fofana leads the tournament in clean breaks and defenders beaten and leads an ever-dangerous attacking unit.
Ben – Clermont by 5, Russ – Clermont (unfortunately) by 12, George – Clermont by 4, Doug – Clermont by 9, Phil – Clermont by 15
Ulster v Bordeaux
Bordeaux have been hard to beat this year but have also struggled to score. Neither side have much to gain from this fixture though Ulster’s candidates for Joe Schmidt’s squad will have an opportunity to lay down a late marker for the Six Nations. Man-mountains Stuart McCloskey and Iain Henderson always carry impressively and although Charles Piutau has no designs on the Six Nations he will be eager to tick further names from his side-step list.
Ben Ulster by 17, Russ – Ulster by 10, George – Ulster by 9, Doug – Ulster by 7, Phil – Bordeaux by 2
Sunday 22nd January
Toulouse v Connacht
Toulouse competed impressively when they forced a dogfight at Wasps. Assuming a Wasps win over Zebre, the Frenchmen need to win by more than seven points to pip their visitors into a runners-up qualification spot. Forwards like Thierry Dusatoir and Talalelei Gray led the effort last week and will be hoping for equally impressive performances from Gael Fickou, Yann David and the other backs. Connacht have shown great resilience throughout the pool stage and will need to dig deep to qualify John Muldoon will lead from the front as ever, ably supported by the likes of Kieran Marmiion.
Ben – Toulouse by 12, Russ – Toulouse by 15, George – Toulouse by 8, Doug – Toulouse by 7, Phil – Toulouse by 18
Zebre v Wasps
If you have seen the first twenty minutes of Saving Private Ryan. Basically, that.
Ben – Wasps by 53, Russ – Wasps by however many they want, George – Wasps by 63 , Doug – Wasps by too many to count, Phil – Wasps by 58