Heineken Cup ready to roll


In a RWC year, the Heineken Cup takes on a new flavour and it is difficult to predict results with so many international players coming back into teams in round one on the weekend of the 15 November. Round two weekend 22nd November

The current rankings of this years local tournaments is topsy turvy, although the Guinness PRO14 is the most consistent tournament. After round two we may be able to judge form better
In the PRO14 both Leinster and Munster top their relative pools, with Ulster and Scarlets prominent  

In the English Premiership - Saracens are 3rd with the threat of a huge points docking and a big fine over their head. Exeter are 6th, Gloucester 5th , Bath 9th, Harlequins 10th and Bristol top the table with Northampton 2nd.

In the French Pro 14 : Lyon top the table winning 8/9 and meet Leinster in the 2nd round, Pau, Bayonne, Bordeaux and Toulon make the top five. Then Clermont, Montpelier Toulouse, La Rochelle, Racing, Stade Francais prop up the table winning 2/9. The usual suspects have made a slow start to the season but they will wake up and forge their way up the table.

The rules have not changed - there are five pools of 4 clubs, the winners are automatically through to the knockout stage and the three best second placed clubs join them to make up the eight

Bennetton are in Pool 1 with Leinster Meet round one, , Lyon, Northampton, so this is a pool with a possible 2nd place Club (Lyon) going through. Tough pool as three of the teams (ex Bennetton) are currently top of their respective competitions.

Pool 2, Exeter - (away to La Rochelle round 1) is favourite with Glasgow, Sale and La Rochelle (Ronan O’Gara - coach), they are all mid table in their leagues.

Pool 3, Clermont (Home to Harlequins round1),  Harlequins, Bath and Ulster who are second in the PRO14 - The other three are mid table, Clermont are favourites here on their record.

Pool 4, Sarracens - (the Holders) (away to racing round 1). Racing, Ospreys and Munster who top their table, Saracens are favourites to win this pool and retain the Cup. I expect Munster to qualify as a second placed qualifier.

Pool 5. Toulouse (away to Gloucester round 1), Gloucester, Connacht and Montpelier, all of them have had quiet openings to the season, Toulouse are favourites on their Heineken Cup record. It is a wide open pool, Connacht can make an impact   

Round 2 for the favourites:
Pool 1, Leinster (away to Lyon), Pool 2. Exeter (home to Glasgow), Pool 3 Clermont (away to Ulster),  Pool 4 Saracens (home to Ospreys) & Munster (home to racing) Pool 5 Toulouse (home to Connacht)

Click here for full fixture list

Report by Frank Quinn