On the return of European fixtures the MaulOver podcast boys have given us their predictions for the weekend… But what do you think?
Friday 13th January
Leinster v Montpellier
Leinster have Johnny Sexton available for selection after he came safely through last week’s backstreet beating of Zebre. Sexton should be assured of good service with Luke McGrath in impressive form at scrum half, while Garry Ringrose continues to catch the eye in the centre. Montpellier are the most realistic threat to the host’s ambitions of topping the group, and with the potential to add the ever dangerous Fijians Nemani Nadolo, Akapusi Qera and Timoci Nagusa to their beefy South African hard core, are not a threat to be taken lightly.
Ben – Leinster by 12, Russ – Leinster by 10, George – Leinster by 5, Phil – Leinster by 20, Doug – Leinster by 6
Saturday 14th January
Glasgow v Munster
In what promises to be tie of the round, the exciting Glasgow side entertain top of the table Munster. The hosts are on a high after the double pummelling of a strong Racing squad and the re-signing of a number of big names. Finn Russell, one of those who has not yet signed, will hope to add a few extra pennies to his next contract by coming out on top in his duel with the equally impressive Tyley Bleyendaal . The visitors also saw off Racing in their re-arranged fixture last week and have carried over their momentum from last year, the back row of O’Mahony, O’Donnell and Stander is a particularly potent threat and Conor Murray continues to look the form number nine in Europe.
Ben – Munster by 4, Russ – Glasgow by 6, George – Glasgow by 2, Phil – Glasgow by 5, Doug – Glasgow by 1
Racing v Leicester
Racing’s selection for the visit of Munster suggests the Frenchman have hit the surrender button early in this year’s tournament, well beaten, they sit pointless at the bottom of the table. Leicester have been wildly unpredictable so far this season, but two feisty performances in the narrow losses to Saracens and Wasps will give them confidence of a rare win in France. Forwards Ellis Genge and Mike Williams in particular, will be keen to stake claims for the recent vacancies created by injuries in Eddie Jones’ squad.
Ben – Leicester by 8, Russ – Leicester by 10, George – Leicester by 6, Phil – Racing by 6, Doug – Leicester by 3
Connacht v Zebre
As rumours grow of a Rome franchise Zebre are very much on the endangered list and, sitting bottom of the group having conceded 224 points, motivation will not be high for the long trip to the west of Ireland. Connacht’s late Muldooning of Wasps has put them right back in the mixer in a group so tight that points difference could be a major factor, as such the likes of Kieran Marmion and Niyi Adeolokun are unlikely to go easy on the Italians.
Ben – Connacht by 52, Russ – Connacht by 29, George – Connacht by 46, Phil – Connacht by 35, Doug – Connacht by 600
Wasps v Toulouse
Wasps are currently flying in the Aviva Premiership but will be frustrated that the late mugging in Connacht has sucked them back into the chasing pack. Christian Wade has been embarrassing defenders for fun in recent weeks and Tommy Taylor is yet to miss a tackle in 106 attempts. With Kurtley Beale looking increasingly dangerous, the threat from the home side is currently coming from all angles. English fans will be hoping for a sighting of the lesser-spotted Tobias Gerald Albert Lieven Flood as the visitors pick from their well stocked squad, with options like Gael Fickou, Luke McAlister and Yoann Huget to add to their huge pack the Frenchmen will always be a threat.
Ben – Wasps by 5, Russ – Wasps by 15, George – Wasps by 12, Phil – Wasps by 10, Doug – Wasps by 15
Northampton v Castres
Northampton will hope to have recovered from the dizziness induced by the giddy heights of a try bonus point last week. With Harry Mallinder and George North returning to fitness they now offer a greater threat behind the scrum. But with Saints already out of contention much will depend on how the slap on the wrist from the last round will effect Mallinder senior’s team selection. Castres are a club that was formed in a bar and as such have our best wishes, but they are having a mid-table kind of season, sitting sixth in the Top 14 and third in their European group, much will again depend on team selection.
Ben – Northampton by 2, Russ – Saints by 8, George – Draw, Phil – Castres by 5, Doug – Castres by 10
Sunday 15th January
Scarlets v Saracens
Scarlets will gain confidence from their fantastic home win over Toulon and edged out Ulster last week. Liam Williams will be keen to put up an early hand for selection over his future colleagues in the Saracens back three, while Jonathan Davies (II) will be hoping for the return of his usual side-kick, in the form of Scott Williams. While Saracens have stuttered somewhat of late and are now without captain Brad Barritt, they are not a spent force of the kind Toulon now resemble and are still eking out results. Maro itoje and Jackson Wray have both stood out in recent weeks and with Owen Farrell due to return the Londoners will travel to Wales with confidence.
Ben – Saracens by 10, Russ – Saracens by 12, George – Scarlets by 3, Phil – Saracens by 8, Doug – Saracens by 18
Toulon v Sale
Steve Diamond will take a break from leaving messages on George Ford’s voicemail to take on the equally thankless task of leading his already eliminated side to the south of France. Toulon have not yet impressed in the tournament but are still a fearsome prospect at home and can choose from their battalions of international stars. The sight of Mamuka Gorgodze is intimidating enough without travelling in the sort of form Sale find themselves in, though if Diamond decides to field a strong side it will be interesting to see how his ex-league wingers perform in the atmosphere of the Stade Mayol. If not the likes of the Curry twins could be in for a baptism of fire.
Ben – Toulon by 32, Russ – Toulon by 18, George – Toulon by 18, Phil – Toulon by 10, Doug – Toulon by 20
Bordeaux v Clermont
Seventh versus first in the Top 14, this should on the surface be a walk in the park, but the unpredictable performances of French sides away from home means that the result is far from certain. Clermont though have been irresistible at times this season and must count themselves as favourites.
Ben – Clermont by 12, Russ – Clermont by 10, George – Clermont by 9, Phil – Clermont by 15 Doug – Clermont by 7
Exeter v Ulster
Exeter are no longer the same side as the one that started the tournament so badly, but the improvement has come too late for this year’s tournament. With Jack Nowell and Don Armand firing on all cylinders the home side will be keen to continue their impressive run of results. Ulster have flattered to deceive somewhat this season but in Charles Piutau they have one of the most potent attacking weapons in Europe. With Stuart McCloskey and Luke Marshall in tandem in the centres the firepower of the visitors means that they have at least a puncher’s chance of an away win.
Ben – Chiefs by 4, Russ – Chiefs by 9, George – Chiefs by 8, Phil – Chiefs by 4, Doug – Chiefs by 5