European Rugby Champions Cup Round 3 Preview

Written by @QuintenLetcher for @Hollywoodbets. Follow them both on Twitter and Facebook now!

Europe’s premier club competition gets back under way this week after more than a month on the backburner, and it is the French contingent that takes an early command of the nascent tournament as Toulon, Racing Metro and Toulouse all remain unbeaten heading into the third round of clashes. Round 2 proved aberrantly fruitful for the travellers, with six of the ten results going against the home sides. The most surprising of these away wins saw a gallant Glasgow Warriors picking up a narrow 13-15 victory over Montpellier at Altrad Stadium to secure the Glaswegians an unfamiliar spot atop the consolidated standings with nine points. Round 3 and 4 sees home and away fixtures against the same opposition before the competition breaks for another month over the festive season. So for the likes of underperforming Saracens (losing finalists in last season’s Heineken Cup), Ulster and Leicester (two of last season’s quarter-finalists) the next two weeks could make or break their European campaign.

Montpellier vs Bath Rugby | Friday 05 December | Altrad Stadium | 21:45

To Win (80mins)
Montpellier 5/10
Bath 31/20
Draw 21/1

Both sides have got off to dismal starts in the competition having lost their two opening Pool 4 clashes, leaving them little hope of advancing through to the knockout stages. Montpellier hasn’t looked all that grand in their domestic competition either, with last weekend’s 23-20 loss to Lyon earning them their sixth Top 14 defeat this season. Bath has had a far better time in the Aviva Premiership, picking up their third consecutive win last week when they outclassed Harlequins 25-6, moving up into second on the log.

VERDICT: Montpellier 5/10
Bath are not as impressive playing outside of Somerset, and with the European competition taking a backseat to their Premiership plans, Montpellier should catch a break this weekend.

Benetton Treviso vs Northampton Saints| Saturday 06 December | Stadio Comunale di Monigo | 15:00

To Win (80mins)
Treviso 6/1
Northampton 1/14
Draw 38/1

Treviso have been consistently awful this season, both in the domestic and European competitions, with the highlight of their season being a 24-24 home draw with Leinster two weeks back. The Saints have had a far more productive season, currently leading the Aviva Premiership and sitting in second in Pool 5 of the Rugby Champions Cup.

VERDICT: Northampton 1/14
This really is just a matter of how much of a hiding the Saints are willing to dish out to their Italian hosts.

Sale Sharks vs Saracens | Saturday 06 December | AJ Bell Stadium | 15:00

To Win (80mins)
Sale 22/10
Saracens 7/20
Draw 22/1

The Sale Sharks have only just managed to salvage their Premiership campaign with last week’s 13-18 victory over Newcastle making it their third consecutive win and moving them up into sixth spot on the log. They caught a bit of a battering in their last European outing where Clermont Auvergne bulldozed their way over the tryline four times to finish up 35-3 victors. Saracens, last year’s losing finalists, will know they need to come away with two wins before Christmas if they want to stand a shot of featuring in the knockout stages. Saracens will be kicking themselves for missing out against Munster in Round 2 and their form in the Premiership has deteriorated considerably since then, managing a measly draw and two losses from their last three outings.

VERDICT: Saracens 7/20
Sale will more than likely opt to rest a few of their bigger guns this week considering their chances of advancing here are slim at best, so Saracens should pick up their first win in what has been almost two months.

Ospreys vs Racing Metro | Saturday 06 December | Liberty Stadium | 17:15

To Win (80mins)
Ospreys 9/20
Racing Metro 18/10
Draw 20/1

Ospreys are just a point behind mettlesome Munster on the PRO12 table and will be looking to bounce back from their 34-6 hammering at the hands of Northampton’s powerhouse George North, who crashed over a mesmerising four times during their Round 2 battle. Racing Metro currently top Pool 5 but have been inconsistent in the Top 14 so have some improvements to make if they want to hold onto their pool lead.

VERDICT: Ospreys 9/20
The French are not the best of travellers, and Ospreys will be looking to bounce back from their back-to-back away losses in the PRO12 against Leinster and Ulster with a convincing performance at home.

Munster vs Clermont Auvergne | Saturday 06 December | Thomond Park | 19:30

To Win (80mins)
Munster 5/10
Clermont 17/10
Draw 21/1

A clash of the European club titans, Munster currently leads the PRO12 title race in the throes of a five-match winning streak, while Clermont slipped just behind table-topping Toulon in the French Top 14 following their 27-19 away loss to the reigning Heineken Cup champions.

VERDICT: Clermont 17/20
This is the value bet of the weekend, with Clermont in fine form at the moment and Munster proving very beatable at home, having already suffered defeats to Edinburgh and Ospreys at Thomond Park this season. Clermont could usurp control of Pool 1 this weekend.

Ulster vs Scarlets | Saturday 06 December | Kingspan Stadium | 21:45

To Win (80mins)
Ulster 2/11
Llanelli 37/10
Draw 29/1

Ulster have had a more successful run in the PRO12 this season than their incoming guests, but they were held to a 32-32 draw when the two met over in Wales back in September. Ulster are still looking to get off the mark in this competition and will be eager to bounce back from their narrow 20-21 loss to Munster in last week’s domestic clash.

VERDICT: Ulster 2/11
Ulster are a far stronger side despite what their current form implies, and Scarlets haven’t managed a win on the road in either competition this season so an Ulster win is a near certainty.

Castres vs London Wasps | Sunday 07 December | Stade Pierre-Antoine | 15:00

To Win (80mins)
Castres 11/20
Wasps 15/10
Draw 20/1

Both sides have come up empty-handed after the first two rounds, and Castres has had a train wreck of a season in the Top 14 were they anchor the log with just four wins from their twelve fixtures so far, although two of those wins came in the past two weeks against heavyweights Racing Metro and Toulon. The Wasps come off back-to back away defeats in the Premiership to Exeter Chiefs and Leicester Tigers, and in fact have not managed to win on the road at all this season.

VERDICT: Castres 11/20
Castres’ recently found form combined with the Wasps’ dismal record on the road points to only one possible outcome.

Harlequins vs Leinster | Sunday 07 December | The Stoop | 17:15

To Win (80mins)
Harlequins 5/4
Leinster 13/20
Draw 20/1

Both sides remain unbeaten in the competition and meet for the first time on the European stage since the infamous 2009 Heineken Cup quarter-final now more commonly known as “Bloodgate”. The ‘Quins have had a poor run in this year’s Premiership and come into this match off loses against Gloucester and Sale, dropping them down to ninth spot, while Leinster have been equally inconsistent in the PRO12 drawing against the much weaker Treviso but brushing past a powerful Ospreys in their last two clashes.

VERDICT: Leinster 13/20
Neither side is in top form but I fancy the three-time European champions will have enough to overcome the beleaguered ‘Quins in London this week.

Toulouse vs Glasgow Warriors | Sunday 07 December | Stade Ernest Wallon | 17:15

To Win (80mins)
Toulouse 1/4
Glasgow 11/4
Draw 24/1

Four-time Heineken Cup winners Toulouse have had a wretched run in their domestic competition but remain undefeated on the European stage with victories over Montpellier and Bath in the opening two rounds. Glasgow continues to impress both in the PRO12 and the Champions Cup, sitting just a point behind Munster on the PRO12 standings while remaining unbeaten in this competition. They will be looking to pick up just their third ever win on French soil having already done so once this season with their heroic 15-13 win over Montpellier.

VERDICT: Toulouse 1/4
Not to take anything away from their impressive start to the season but Glasgow definitely came away the luckier side against Montpellier in a game hindered by ill discipline from both teams. Toulouse will be a more composed opponent, so the home advantage should see them past their Scottish visitors this week.

Leicester Tigers vs Toulon | Sunday 07 December | Welford Road | 19:30

To Win (80mins)
Leicester 16/10
Toulon 11/20
Draw 20/1

The Tigers bounced back from a miserable start to the Premiership season with victories over Harlequins, London Welsh and the Wasps and even managed a hard-fought 21-21 draw against Saracens a few weeks back. They got things off to a cracking start in this competition with a 25-18 win over Ulster at Welford Road but followed that up with telling 15-3 defeat to Scarlets a week later. This week they host defending champions Toulon who remain unbeaten in the competition and currently lead the Top 14 race.

VERDICT: Toulon 11/20
Leicester have a chance this week being at home but with Toulon in such fine form it would take a near perfect performance to come out on top, so I’m backing the French for a narrow win.

Think we've got it wrong? Well leave your comments below and tell us how you think this is going to play out.