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PREVIEW: Full servings of Challenge and Champions Cup this weekend

The European rugby season reaching the business end of the pool phase with only 1 round remaining until we reach the play-offs of the Champions Cup and 2 before the Challenge Cup play-offs.

Pierre POPELIN of La Rochelle during the Heineken Champions Cup
Image Copyright - Steve Haag Sports

The European rugby season reaching the business end of the pool phase with only 1 round remaining until we reach the play-offs of the Champions Cup and 2 before the Challenge Cup play-offs.

Two women looking excitedly at cellphone

Champions Cup

Saturday 22 January

Leicester 42/100 | Draw 20/1 | Bordeaux 2/1 (17:15)

First up we’ve got a clash between the Leicester Tigers and a Bordeaux Begles side that will likely go through to the Round of 16 regardless of the result here, although a point from this one would guarantee them qualification.

The hosts are yet to lose a game in the comp with their latest victory seeing them beat Connacht 28-29 last weekend in a thriller. The victory was a rather lucky one as a late try from Hosea Saumaki saw them overturn what was at one point an 18-point deficit.

Bordeaux were far more convincing in victory last weekend as they hammered the Scarlets 45-10. This was their first win of the campaign as they had one of their other game against Scarlets cancelled and called a draw due to COVID while they lost their reverse tie to Leicester 13-16.

The Tigers have been in great touch during the group phase of the tournament and I can’t see them losing this one. I reckon they’ll take it by at least 20 points.

Ulster 1/3 | Draw 21/1 | Clermont 51/20 (19:30)

Our second fixture could well turn out to be a belter of a tie as French outfit Clermont head to Ireland in desperate need of a couple of points. The visitors are currently two points to the good in the race for a play-off berth but should Montpellier and Glasgow win their fixtures, then Clermont could be looking at an early exit from the comp.

A win will be tricky against an Ulster side that are unbeaten and a strong proposition at home. The Irish province head into this one off the back of a
solid away outing where they beat the Northampton Saints 20-24.

Clermont fared alright in the last round as well as they beat the Sale Sharks 25-19 in France. When these sides met in Round 1 of the competition, Ulster stole the spoils, running out 23-29 victors.

I expect this to be a near run thing and Ulster to come out on top by a very narrow margin.

Sunday 23 January

Munster 2/13 | Draw 25/1 | Wasps 46/10 (17:15)

We remain in Ireland for our next selected fixture which will see already qualified Munster take on a Wasps side that need two points to make it through to the next round.

The visitors were absolute value for money last weekend as I tipped them to cause a shock against Toulouse at a tidy price. They did just this running out 30-22 victors.

Munster also fared well in the last round as they beat Castres 13-16 away from home.

The two sides met back in the first round of the comp and it was a day to forget for Wasps as an early red card for flanker Brad Shields proved costly as they went down 14-35 to a COVID hit Munster outfit.

I reckon we’ll get a very open game here with Wasps likely to be chasing bonus points if Munster take a sizable early lead. I still reckon Munster will get the job done as buoyed as Wasps maybe after their victory over Toulouse.

Challenge Cup

Friday 28 January

Lyon 1/7 | Draw 28/1 | Treviso 48/10 (21:00)

We move onto the Challenge Cup stuff now and the first of the two fixtures we’ll take a look at is the clash between Top 14 club Lyon and URC outfit Treviso.

The hosts currently top Pool B with three wins from their three outings. They head into this fixture off the back of a 6-37 win over Perpignan. A victory here would assure them of a spot in the play-offs.

Treviso have fared worse only winning one of the two fixtures they have played thus far. They head into this one off the back of a win, however, as they beat URC rivals, the Dragons, 23-9 this past weekend.

Lyon are in fine fettle and hold home ground advantage. I can’t see Lyon winning this one by less than 15 points.

Sunday 23 January

Saracens | Draw | London Irish (16:15) *betting tba

It is over to North London for the last of our featured games and we should be in for a cracker here as Saracens and London Irish square off in an all-English affair.

The hosts have really struggled this term and are yet to win a game losing 18-21 to Edinburgh in Round 1 before forfeiting their Round 2 clash against Pau. They really need a win here if they are to stay in the hunt for a play-off berth.

Irish have enjoyed a much better time of it beating Pau 17-33 in Round 1 and Edinburgh 21-20 this past weekend.

I’m expecting a big response from the hosts who desperately need a win here.

Challenge Cup Quick Fire Tips

Edinburgh Win v Brive
Worcester Win v Zebre
Gloucester Win v Perpignan
Toulon Win v Newcastle

Champions Cup Quick Fire Tips

Harlequins Win v Castres 1/25
Leinster Win v Bath 1/100
Toulouse Win v Cardiff N/A (Best minus through Live In-Play)
Lecester Win v Bordeaux 42/100
Scarlets Win v Bristol 6/10
Glasgow Win v La Rochelle 21/20
Connacht Win v Stade 13/10
Sale Win v Ospreys 1/20
Racing Win v Northampton 1/20

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