Written by Darry Worthington for @Hollywoodbets. Follow them both on Twitter and Facebook now!
Saracens v Toulouse | Saturday 14 November | Allianz Park | 19:30
Fixtures such as this are what the tournament is all about. Current Aviva Premiership table-toppers Saracens will host French giants Toulouse on Saturday evening in what should be a sublime exhibition of rugby.
With both teams gunning for top spot in the group and the automatic qualifying spot that achievement brings, we can expect a battle royale at Allianz Park come Saturday evening.
To Win (80 Mins)
The London-based franchise have gotten their domestic campaign off to a flawless start winning all four of the fixtures they’ve played thus far. They’ve scored 94 points in those games whilst only conceding 38. However, Toulon will present a completely different challenge to the ones they’ve faced thus far and head coach, Mark McCall, will have been drumming this into his players for the majority of the week.
The Wolf Pack, as they are affectionately known, will have to bare their teeth this weekend as their French opponents relish the physical side of the game. With the human wrecking ball that is Billy Vunipola still injured and talismanic flanker Jaques Burger retired, Saracens will need the likes of Kelly Brown and former Golden Lions and Western Province flanker, Michael Rhodes, to step up to the plate.
They may be missing a few of their key men upfront but their backline is about as settled as they could hope for. Veteran nine Neil de Kock will be partnered by the ever-reliable Charlie Hodgson. This half back pairing will be key to Saracens controlling the game. Both players are great readers of the game and their tactical kicking will be paramount to Saracens chances in the opener.
Like their opponents for Saturday, Toulouse have enjoyed a fantastic start to their domestic campaign, which has seen them win six of the eight games they’ve played thus far. They currently occupy second spot on the French Top 14 table and are only two points behind the current log leaders, Clermont Auvergne.
Toulouse have racked up 221 points in those 8 fixtures and are averaging 27.6 points per game. Their defense has been decent if not spectacular -conceding 116 points at an average of 14.5 points per game.
They may not have as star studded a squad as the likes of Toulon or Stade Francais, but what they lack in quality, they more than make up for in spirit. And with Theirry Dusautoir leading the side you wouldn’t really expect anything less.
The athletic flanker will look to make a nuisance of himself at every breakdown. He will be joined in this quest by fellow loosie Louis Picamoles and possibly another French international in the form of Imanol Harinordiquy.
If the Toulon loose trio manage to dominate the breakdown and shut down Charlie Hodgson, then they may just have a chance in this one.
This game is likely to be won or lost at the breakdown and while the French side boasts a more experienced loose trio, I think Michael Rhodes and Co have the quality to win the breakdown contest.
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