Heineken Champions Cup: Round 5 (Pool 1, 2 and 3) Preview

Rugby Players engage into a scrum

The Heineken Champions Cup returns this weekend with a number of tasty looking fixtures coming your way. 

Shaun Goosen previews all of the fixtures from Pools 1, 2 and 3:

Pool 1:

Leinster vs Toulouse
12 January 15h00
RDS Arena

To Win Match
Leinster 1/5
Draw 23/1

Toulouse 7/2

In arguably the game of the weekend, Leinster and Toulouse meet for a rematch in Dublin that will decide which team tops Pool 1 heading into the final pool game of the season. The French side triumphed 28-27 in a remarkable matchup in October that ended the defending champions’ unbeaten run in Europe but playing at the RDS will pose a much greater challenge for Ugo Mola’s men.

While Johnny Sexton has been ruled out with a leg injury, Robbie Henshaw may be in line for a return to action for Leinster after recovering from the hamstring injury he suffered during Ireland’s warm-up for their November Test match against Argentina. A recall for the Lions centre would be a big boost for the hosts.

Verdict: Leinster 1/5
The fact that both sides have claimed five wins in their last six outings respectively makes this a tough one to call, but Leo Cullen’s troops should get the result at home.

Bath v Wasps
12 January 16h15
The Recreation Ground

To Win Match
Bath 41/100
Draw 20/1
Wasps 2/1

While Leinster and Toulouse jostle for top spot, Pool 1’s bottom feeders clash to avoid potentially finishing last ahead of their final round-robin fixture. Neither Bath nor Wasps have registered a win yet in the competition, with their 35-all draw at the Ricoh Arena in October being the closest both sides have come.

This weekend’s meeting at the Rec will provide Wasps with an opportunity to build on last week’s win over Northampton, which ended a diabolical five-match losing streak. Dai Young’s men have been lacklustre of late but will look to that Saints win as a turning point in their season.

Verdict: Bath 41/100
Bath, sitting in eighth-place in the Premiership, one-point behind Wasps in sixth, will take confidence from their 24-14 away win at the Ricoh in December ahead of this one. Playing at home, they should manage to claim a win to all but ensure they remain third in the pool come the end of the season.

Pool 2:

Gloucester v Munster
11 January 21h45
Kingsholm Stadium

To Win Match
Gloucester 37/20
Draw 19/1
Munster 9/20

Having just ascended to the summit of Pool A in the Pro14, Munster will look to continue their upward trajectory by maintaining their grip on first place in Pool 2 of the Champions Cup. Their opponents this week, Gloucester, have not quite hit the heights this season that many predicted they would as they currently occupy fourth place in the Premiership; a whopping 19-points behind leaders Exeter. Still, a win this week would give their European credentials a massive boost heading into the final round of pool play.

Verdict: Munster 9/20
Despite playing away from home, Munster will be regarded as favourites. Their ultra-physical forward pack should lay the platform for flyhalf ace Joey Carbery to put them in pole position.

Exeter Chiefs v Castres Olympique
13 January 15h00
Sandy Park

To Win Match
Exeter 1/9
Draw 28/1
Castres 53/10

Despite having recorded just one win in Europe this season, runaway Premiership leaders Exeter can still claw their way back into playoff contention with a home win over French champions Castres this weekend. Rather surprisingly, Rob Baxter’s boys have endured a painfully wobbly Champions Cup campaign thus far with one draw and two losses to go with their sole victory. For a side so dominant on the domestic front, it’s odd they haven’t carried that form into their clashes in Europe.

Verdict: Exeter 1/9
Still though, they will back themselves to claim a win at home over an inconsistent Castres side that has won just fifty percent of their 14 Top 14 matches so far this season to put themselves in a very handy position.

Pool 3:

Lyon v Saracens
13 January 16h15
Matmut Stadium Gerland

To Win Match
Lyon 39/10
Draw 25/1
Saracens 2/11

A Saracens outfit that has won all four of their Champions Cup matches this season should be too much for Lyon to handle this weekend. The Londoners claimed a comfortable 29-10 win in October’s reverse fixture at the Allianz Park and will be brimming with confidence ahead of their trip to the land of croissants and baguettes.

Verdict: Saracens 2/11
Lyon, fifth in the Top 14, will take heart from the Sale Sharks’ surprise win over Saracens on the weekend, but will be hard-pressed to match the latter’s phenomenal tactical and kicking game. Without a win yet in the competition, there is no reason to suggest they will be able to turn the tide on Sunday.

Glasgow Warriors v Cardiff Blues
13 January 16h15
Scotstoun Stadium

To Win Match
Glasgow 1/8
Draw 30/1
Cardiff 49/10

Dave Rennie’s Warriors, just four-points behind leaders Saracens, can maintain the pressure on their English rivals with a win over Cardiff this weekend. Considering they host the 2017 champions next week, Glasgow can still snatch first place for themselves with two big performances in the next fortnight.

Verdict: Glasgow 1/8
Cardiff on the other hand, are down and out having earned just one win so far. They will be playing for nothing but pride when they make the short trip to Scotland ahead of this Sunday, but they may be outmatched by a side with lofty ambitions in sight.

Written by Shaun Goosen for Hollywoodbets 

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