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European Champions Cup: Round 1 Pool A Preview

Dillyn Leyds - La Rochelle

Shaun Goosen takes a look at Pool A’s round one fixtures taking place this weekend in the new-look European Champions Cup. 

Image Copyright – Steve Haag Sports

Two women looking excitedly at cellphone

Friday 11 December

Northampton Saints vs Bordeaux Bègles


Franklin’s Gardens

To Win Match

Northampton 12/10

Draw 20/1

Bordeaux 7/10

Bordeaux Bègles travel to Franklin’s Gardens to take on an under-fire Northampton Saints side on Friday.

The Saints have lost all three of their opening Premiership matches so far, with Chris Boyd now under massive pressure to get his men off the ground. After finishing eighth domestically last season and just sneaking into the Champions Cup on points-difference, the confidence in the camp isn’t exactly at an all-time high.

Bordeaux, meanwhile, sit eighth in the Top 14 after winning half of their 10 games so far. In spite of their mediocrity, they are favourites to come away from Franklin’s Gardens with the spoils this weekend and should earn a narrow victory.

Verdict: Bordeaux 7/10

There’s a good bit of value available for backing the French outfit to win on the board.

Saturday 12 December

Toulon v Sale Sharks


Stade Felix Mayol

To Win Match

Toulon 4/10

Draw 18/1

Sale 21/10

Three-time European champions Toulon host the Sale Sharks at the Stade Felix Mayol on Saturday.

Toulon have won six of their opening 10 matches in the Top 14 and currently occupy seventh. After losing out to Bristol in last season’s Challenge Cup final, they will be determined to use that heartache to their benefit this European season.

Sale are fourth in the Premiership after winning two of their first three games. Boasting a side stampvol with some of South Africa’s most physical internationals, they are fast becoming a real force in Europe.

The matchup will be a close one, though Eben Etzebeth’s hosts may just find the edge.

Verdict: Toulon 4/10

The hosts’ European pedigree should come to the fore here. 

Bath v Scarlets


Recreation Ground

To Win MatchBath 2/11

Draw 22/1

Scarlets 39/10

Bath welcome Scarlets to the Rec with both sides having endured relatively challenging domestic campaigns thus far.

Bath are sixth in the Premiership after winning one of their opening three matches. It may still be early days, but Stuart Hooper’s charges can ill-afford to fall too far behind in England such is the competitive nature of the league there. That said, they’ll take heart from their big win over Worcester on the weekend.

Glenn Delaney’s Welsh side haven’t fared much better on the domestic front, sitting third in the Pro14’s Conference B with three wins from seven. Having last played on 22 November, Scarlets may be rusty and could struggle at the Rec here.

Verdict: Bath 2/11  

Back the English outfit to pick up where they left off last weekend.

Two women looking excitedly at cellphone

Dragons v Wasps


Rodney Parade 

To Win Match

Dragons 7/2

Draw 22/1

Wasps 1/5

The Dragons host Wasps at Rodney Parade as they look to give themselves a positive start to their European campaign.

The Newport-based team aren’t traditionally one of the strongest in Europe and lost out to eventual winners Bristol in last season’s Challenge Cup quarterfinals. An upset win here could give them an outside chance of challenging the status quo this time around.

Wasps, though, will have other ideas. They may only sit in 10th on the Premiership standings, but their pedigree should lift them to a comfortable opening win here.

Verdict: Wasps 1/5

Fairly straight-forward here, Wasps should come out on top.

Montpellier v Leinster


GGL Stadium

To Win Match

Montpellier 31/10

Draw 22/1

Leinster 1/4

Montpellier tackle Leinster in arguably the match of Pool A at the GGL Stadium.

The French outfit are 11th on the Top 14 standings after picking up just three wins from eight. Their latest 21-15 away win over fourth-placed Clermont will give them huge confidence ahead of this one, though.

Leinster have continued their domination of the Pro14, boasting a 100% record from their seven matches so far. Their Champions Cup quarterfinal defeat to Saracens a few months back will still be fresh in the memory and you’d expect them to kick the new season off with a big performance this weekend. Montpellier might not have enough in their arsenal.

Verdict: Leinster 1/4

The Irish juggernauts are favourites to win this competition outright and should have little trouble dispatching and out of sorts Montpellier outfit. 

Edinburgh v La Rochelle


Murrayfield Stadium 

To Win Match

Edinburgh 29/20

Draw 20/1
La Rochelle 6/10

Edinburgh may find the going tough at Murrayfield against a La Rochelle outfit who have hit the ground running this season.

The Scotsmen have won just two of their seven matches in the Pro14 so far, this after performing so well during their last campaign. This matchup with La Rochelle may have come at the wrong time for them.

The French side are first on the Top 14 with eight wins from 11. They’ve been very impressive thus far and shouldn’t have a problem in dealing with Edinburgh here.

Verdict: La Rochelle 6/10

This is a great bit of value, snap up the 6/10 before it’s gone and ensure to add to weekend multiples. 

Written by Shaun Goosen.

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