ERCC: Outright Preview 2018 -2019 Season

ERCC: Outright Preview 2018 -2019 Season

The pinnacle of European club rugby, the European Rugby Champions Cup, gets underway this October. Darry Worthington takes a look at some of the early value on offer in the outright winner market

The 2018/19 European domestic rugby season is shaping up to be a rather intriguing one with Europe's glamour clubs likely to without a host of stars due to national call-ups and rest periods.

Will these heavy hitters be able to cope with their national stars missing for periods of the campaign? And could their absence possibly open the door for one of the less fancied sides to conquer Europe?

To Win Outright
Leinster 2/1 |  Saracens 7/2 | Montpellier 13/2 | Exeter Chiefs 15/2 | Munster 12/1 | Racing Metro 12/1 | Toulon 14/1 | Scarlets 16/1 | Wasps 25/1 | Glasgow Warriors 33/1 | Leicester 40/1 | Toulouse 40/1 | Castres 66/1 | Lyon 80/1 | Bath 80/1 | Gloucester 100/1


Pool 1: Leinster, Bath, Wasps, and Toulouse

Pool 2: Castres, Exeter, Munster, and Gloucester
Pool 3: Saracens, Glasgow Warriors, Lyon, and Cardiff Blues
Pool 4: Scarlets, Racing Metro, Leicester Tigers, and Ulster
Pool 5: Montpellier, Newcastle Falcons, Toulon, and Edinburgh

Reigning champions Leinster are the side likely to be the heaviest hit by the World Cup build-up. The reigning champions have a number of Irish International stars commanding national starting berths.

As such, the likes of the talismanic pivot, Jonathan Sexton, and workaholic prop, Tadgh Furlong are likely to be rested for huge swathes of the domestic season as the Irish look to lift their first ever 2019 Rugby World Cup trophy.

The Glasgow Warriors and the Scarlets are also likely to be forced to rotate as they are their national sides' main feeder clubs.

It will be interesting to see if the English Rugby Football Union also enacts rest period protocols for national players. At this point in time, the RFU are yet to announce a mandated rest period for English nationals. It would be absolute suicide for them not to come up with some management plan as they are already seeing their big guns, like Billy Vuniopoala, unable to sustain a run of games without picking up an injury.

If the suits at the English rugby board do enact a rest period protocol, this could drastically affect Saracens' aspirations of reclaiming the title from Leinster as their squad holds a huge number of English Internationals.

Unlike the English  Rugby Board, the French Union won't even consider a rest period mandate due to the power French Clubs hold. As such, the likes of Toulouse and Racing Metro will be free to field their French stars as whenever they want.

While the English and Irish big guns will no doubt feature in the play-offs, it may be smart to look for sides with a lot of foreign mercenaries when it comes to backing an outright winner this term. As such, looking to one of the French sides, like Montpellier or Toulon, either could prove profitable this season.

Dark Horse
It's not often that one files a club like Toulon under the dark horse folder, but the price they have affixed to their name is that of a dark horse. The mega-rich French club may be losing Duan Vermeulen and possibly Chris Ashton but they have counter-acted this by bringing in former All Blacks Julian Savea and Liam Messam.

The majority of their squad won't be involved in the build-up to the World Cup with only the likes of Anthony Belleau, Matheui Basteraud and Guilhem Guarado set to play prominent roles for the French National team.

Verdict: Toulon 14/1
The French giants find themselves in a rather easy pool which features domestic foes Montpellier, Scotland's Edinburgh and the Newcastle Falcons. The latter two sides shouldn't cause Toulon too many troubles. Meaning the double-header against Montpellier is likely to decide who finishes top of the group.

I can see Toulon getting the better of a Montpellier side that could suffer the second-season syndrome under Vern Cotter and fail to reach the lofty heights of last year. If they top their group, then Montpellier would host a home quarter-final against one of the Pool runners-up, and then possibly a home semi-i final. 

At 14/1, it's definitely worth having a moderate early crack on the French outfit. 

Written by Darry Worthington for

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