Shaun Goosen previews three of this weekend’s Pool B fixtures coming your way from the European Champions Cup.
Image Copyright – Steve Haag Sports
Friday 11 December
Ulster v Toulouse
To Win Match
Ulster welcome last season’s semi-finalists Toulouse to the Kingspan Stadium on Friday night.
The men from Belfast have won all eight of their Pro14 matches so far this campaign, as they sit three points ahead of Leinster at the summit of Conference A. With the likes of Jacob Stockdale, Stuart McCloskey and Rob Herring all returning from international duty and Marcell Coetzee packing down at No 8, the hosts will be hoping for a performance worthy of a massive upset.
Toulouse, though, have named a truly star-studded lineup. Thomas Ramos and Antoine Dupont are the halfback pairing, with Romain Ntamack in midfield and Cheslin Kolbe on the left wing. With Charlie Faumuina, Joe Tekori and Rynhardt Elstadt in the pack, they may be too much for Ulster.
Verdict: Toulouse 5/10
Back the star-studded French club to claim the spoils in Ulster on Friday.
Saturday 12 December
Bristol Bears v Clermont Auvergne
To Win Match
The Bristol Bears will get a truer measure of their powers when Clermont Auvergne visit Ashton Gate on Saturday.
The English club won the Challenge Cup last season and have now set their sights on claiming the biggest prize in Europe. With a squad full of stars that play one of the most entertaining brands of rugby out there, they are always worth keeping an eye on. But with French powerhouses Clermont visiting this weekend, they are in for a litmus test of note.
The visitors come off the back of a disappointing home loss to Montpellier, a result that marked their third defeat from nine games this season. They occupy fourth on the Top 14 standings, albeit just seven points off of first place La Rochelle. With all their European experience, you’d expect them to see off the challenge of the Bears this Saturday.
Verdict: Clermont 13/20
Clermont’s pedigree at this level should see them get past a flashy Bristol outfit.
Racing 92 v Connacht
La Defense Arena
To Win Match
Last season’s runners-up Racing 92 should kick-off the new European season with a win over Connacht on Saturday.
The Parisians are third on the Top 14, having lost just three times in their 10 games to date. They did well to beat a tough Bordeaux outfit on the weekend and will take heart from that heading into the first round of the Champions Cup.
Connacht are second in Conference B of the Pro14. Theirs is a close-knit side that always looks to punch above its weight and they will look to do so again here. Whether they have enough quality to upset one of the competition’s premier sides is doubtful though.
Verdict: Racing 1/14
There’s only really one outcome here, and that’s the home win.
Written by Shaun Goosen.