Hollywoodbets Sports Blog: Heineken Champions Cup: Season Preview

Heineken Champions Cup: Season Preview

Will Chudley of Bath Rugby looks to tackle Josh van der Flier of Leinster Rugby
Image Copyright - Steve Haag Sport

The European Rugby Champions Cup will get underway on Friday the 15th of November. Darry Worthington takes a look at the tournament, and who he thinks will win it.

The World Cup may be over but there's still plenty of high-level rugby in store before the turn of the year including the Heineken Champions Cup, which is essentially European Rugby's answer to the Champions League.

Irish outfit, Leinster, come into this one as hot favourites but could face stiff competition from a Saracens side that has nothing to play for on the domestic front have been docked 35 points for wage infringements.

To Win Outright
Leinster 2/1
Saracens 24/10

Clermont 6/1
Toulouse 15/2
Exeter 9/1
Racing Metro 15/1
Munster 20/1
Montpellier 33/1
Gloucester 33/1
Lyon 100/1


Contenders

Leinster
Pool Opponents: Treviso, Northampton, and Lyon
Last year's runners-up and 2018/19 champions, Leinster, come into this one as red-hot favourites with the bookmakers to retain their title. You can't exactly blame the men setting the prices as Leinster have started their domestic campaign like a house on fire and after six games sit top of the pops in Conference A and are yet to taste defeat.

They have a fantastic squad packed with both vastly experienced players and exciting youth prospects. Not only do they have some class personnel but their squad is also an extremely deep one.

They're going to need the entirety of the squad to fire as they have been handed a tough old draw with in-form sides Northampton and Lyon sure to offer a still challenge on the road.

Jamie Roberts and Sam Underhill of Bath Rugby tackling Johnny Sexton (c) of Leinster Rugby
Can Johnny Sexton carry Leinster to their second Champions Cup in three seasons? Image Copyright - Steve Haag Sports.

Key Player: Johnny Sexton
He may get limited game time during the pool phase but Sexton will be a talismanic force come the play-offs, especially after what transpired out in Japan.

Saracens
Pool Opponents: Racing 92, Ospreys, and Munster


After being handed a 35-point deduction on the domestic front, 2019/20 is shaping up to be a defining year for Saracens. The North London-based club have hit turbulence having been on a smooth flight for the past half-decade. The storm was on the horizon though and you get a sneaky they have had a 'Plan B' that was stored away for a rainy day.

Sarries know there's nothing to play for on the domestic front - they won't get relegated as there's a few cannon-fodder teams in England's top tier this year - so they'll be going full-tilt to try and secure some silverware and a cash injection that a European Cup win would give.

Owen Farrell of Saracens takes a penalty during an Aviva Premiership match between Saracens and Bath
Owen Farrell will need to put the disappointment of the World Cup behind him in order to lead Saracens to a successful Champions Cup defence. Image Copyright - Steve Haag Sport

Key Player: Owen Farrell
Like Sexton, Farrell is likely to a few pool phase games. Like Sexton as well, Farrell coolness will be crucial should 'Sarries get out of what is a rather dicey pool. 


Exeter Chiefs
Pool Opponents: Glasgow, La Rochelle, and Sale Sharks

With Saracens being handed a massive points deduction on the domestic front, the Exeter Chiefs may perhaps be thinking 2019/20 is their season.

The English side have developed a nasty habit of tanking before the competition gets to its business end - they did this last year when they bombed out in the pool phase.

The Chiefs have made some smart recruitments during the off-season, with the headline move seeing Scottish international Stuart Hogg trade Glasgow for Exeter.

Stuart Hogg - Scotland full back puts through a grubber kick.
Stuart Hogg will debut for Exeter this season. Image Copyright Fotosport/David Gibson.

Key Player: Stuart Hogg
He will add something special to this very good Exeter side. Their counter-attacking ability is abut to go up ten-fold. 


Dark Horses

Gloucester and Lyon
These are two sides worth backing at their respective prices.

First, the English club: Johann Ackermann has built a very handy squad. His side is also playing circa 2017 Lions rugby. Go and watch some of the tries they have scored. Some really are straight out a Super Rugby highlights reel.

Speaking of the domestic front, Gloucester have lost two of their four games. They have, however, managed to secure three bonus-points from these defeats.

Onto the French outfit now. Lyon are absolutely tearing it up in the French top tier, where they have won eight of their opening nine fixtures.

While their squad cannot be classed as 'world-class' Lyon are a very capable side.

Verdict: Gloucester (33/1) and Lyon (100/1)
This is going to be a very topsy-turvy year. As such, I reckon it's a good idea having a crack on the outsiders.

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