Friday, January 11, 2019

European Professional Club Rugby: Champions Cup - preview Round 5

European Professional Club Rugby – Round 5, Champions Cup

It’ll be do or die for a number of XVs in Champions Cup action this weekend. With only a brace of fixtures remaining on the schedule before a break during which Six Nations and the competitors’ leagues (Gallagher, Guinness and Orange) take the stage. And when one says break one is talking more than two months until the first three-day, EPCR, knockouts on the weekend of March 29-31; if you’re thinking a lot can happen ‘twixt now and then… you’d be abso correct – such are the interwoven rats’ nests of competition fashioned by their principals… and not just interwoven, but adhesived [sic] with super glue as well. 
Though the Northern Hemisphere competitions are vital and vibrant, they’re a tad confusing to interpret given the reluctance of them what run the individual shows to arrive at agreement on the elusive “One Season” vaporous grail.  Figure pretty much 20 table points will assure a team of advancement to extra time.

Group 1:
               Saturday - Bath (5) v (3) Wasps at The Rec: this’ll be for pride and contract, significant motivators at times;
               Saturday - Leinster (15) v (17) Toulouse at the Royal Dublin Society, Lansdowne Road, Dublin: M-o-W; who wins, they’re into knockouts… pretty much;

Group 2:

               Friday – Gloucester (8) v (12) Munster at Kingsholm: travelers are 7-2-1 in their last 10, while their opponents are in an answer search, having lost three-from-five recently, two at home; this here be the pool of death with everyone yet in the mix, but that aspect will sort itself this round, one should think;
               Saturday – Exeter Chiefs (8) v  (9) Castres at Sandy Park: if visitors can find the form with which they schooled T14 headboy Clermont pre-Autumn Tests they’ve got a shot, but actually both have experienced issues in their last handful of outings; nevertheless winners innit still and losers will be left to count their toes at day’s end; other M-o-W;

Pool 3:

               Sunday – Glasgow Warriors (14) v (4) Cardiff Blues at Scotstoun: homeys hope to find their form in this one as they’ve dropped three straight and will be wondering where that form has gotten, while their guests have been on the struggle bus this season;
               Sunday – Lyon (0) v (18) Saracens at the Matmut: though undefeated in the new year and on two joys in a row, Lyon have only three happies from their last ten encounters; travelers, on the other hand, are a single win from three holiday season contests, an uncommon occurrence for those corsairs to say the minimum… they’ll be full strength and looking for someone to punch and punch hard; Jonnie Wisznewski and mates may be ready for a dull and dour surprise for their guests; sleeper of the weekend?

Pool 4:

               Saturday – Ulster (14) v (19) Racing 92 in Kingspan at Ravenhill: poorly-disciplined travelers were hammered just prior to the new year on the trot, but 92 had not Finn Russell at 10 in that, while homeboys have dropped their last two GPro14 comps; Ravenhill be fairly rockin’ with rugby this RugbyDay; M-o-W, M-o-W, boom;
               Saturday – Llanelli Scarlets (2) v (5) Leicester Tigers at Parc y Scarlets: a club with solo joy in its last half dozen outings versus their guests who’ve a brace of victories from their recent eleven games; wtf? one might think of these once vaunted giants; however, these boys are pros and this’n could be played with real abandon and might very well be worth a looksee;

Pool 5:

               Saturday – Toulon (6) v (15) Edinburgh at the Felix Mayol: if you’d have thought these clubs would be in their current positions in the group, you’d be nuevo Nostradamus; Edinburgh are deep and formidable this season, and are better than the sum of their parts, while the same cannot be said of their weekend hosts; still, one would have to go back before the time of last Autumn’s Tests to find loss at Felix Mayol; Rhys Webb was special last outing in the Mayol; Pilou-Pilou indeed;
               Saturday – Montpellier (11) v (8) Newcastle Falcons in GGL at the Altrad: home team will be looking for maximum points here; travelers have lost five in succession, though talisman, Toby Flood, is back at standoff and captain, and the Birds're not out of the Champions Cup just yet; homeboys, at times this campaign have looked almost Toulon-esque, laden with talent yet too many thumbs on the one hand every so often; hosts are hunting at minimum a barrage fixture, but may win the group pot with a win should Edinburgh stumble in the South of France and Montpellier find joy next Friday at Murrayfield; Johann Goosen will start at 10 with Aaron Cruden, perhaps the finest distributor in the game today, on the bench; service to the three-quarters will be provided by 21-years old Ben Paillaugue, whose act behind the pack will be definitive;

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