Heineken Champions Cup 2018/19 – Sunday 16th December

Leicester Tigers (+3) v Racing 92 (-3)
BT Sport 2, kick-off 1pm

Leicester have struggled both domestically and on the European stage, but Welford Road has been an escape from some of the worse part of their season and they can give Racing 92 a strong game this afternoon.

The power and skill of Racing was too much for them last week but three of the five tries they conceded came when they were a man down and they responded with three very well worked tries of their own, including well worked tries for Jonah Holmes and Manu Tuilagi there.

The backline talent through the Tigers has been a saving grace for them this season and to add to Holmes and Tuilagi they have George Ford and Ben Youngs, Matt Toomua and Johnny May, which does give them just as much pace as the visitors have even if their pack hasn’t been performing at the level expected of them.

Racing bring the big guns yet again and won here last season but that success, a 23-20 nailbiter, was an extremely tight affair and despite their malaise Leicester haven’t suffered a humiliation at Welford Road since Glasgow won here last season. Worcester, Sale and Saracens have all won here this season but the biggest margin was seven points and Leicester were deserving winners against Scarlets here when winning 45-27 in the second matchday.

The weather looks to have held off from Welford Road which should mean an entertaining, all court game. Racing bring Simon Zebo, Virimi Vakatawa, Henry Chavancy, Juan Imhoff, and Finn Russell in the backline whilst they have forwards Antonie Claassen, Bernard Le Roux, Leone Nakarawa, and Donnacha Ryan – we could see plenty of tries.

Advice: 3 pts Leicester +6 (8/11 Ladbrokes), 1 pt over 47.5 points (8/11 Bet365)

 

 

 

Newcastle (-4) v Edinburgh (+4)
BT Sport 2, kick-off 3.15pm

Last weekend’s encounter between these two sides was a comprehensive victory for Edinburgh, but there is still all to play for in one of the tightest pools of the tournament and one can expect Newcastle to be much more competitive this afternoon.

 

It was not the first rate Newcastle Falcons that we saw last week but the big guns are well and truly back, with 11 changes made to the side since last week. England flanker Mark

Wilson returns and there’s dynamite pace and power out wide as wingers Vereniki Goneva and Sinoti Sinoti also return in a team captained by fly-half Toby Flood.

 

The return of Wilson makes a backrow of him, Nemani Nagusa and John Hardie, a clear sign to expect the real falcons back on home turf (artificial turf).

 

 

Edinburgh have been impressive in this tournament with Richard Cockerill’s men making the transition to European rugby very effectively, and their comprehensive win against Newcastle was their second impressive home performance in a row following their 40-14 trashing of Toulon, and they will present a tough fight.

 

It says a great deal about the strength Cockerill has brought to the club that the only two changes are Allan Dell and Luke Hamilton – Scottish internationals both – and we can expect some serious resistance but home advantage is sure to be vital and Newcastle can reverse last week’s loss.

 

Advice: 1 pt Newcastle to win by 1-12 points (17/10 Betfair)

 

Montpellier (-10) v Toulon (+10)

BT Sport 2, kick-off 3.15pm

 

Toulon’s woes finally came to a stop last week when they comprehensively beat Montpellier to keep their slim Champion Cup hopes alive and they might make some more progress at the Stade Altrad today.

 

It has been a long and hard season for Toulon, who have had problems on and off the field, not least with a turnover of more than 10 plays pre season and then plenty of injuries during the current campaign, but recently things have improved with back to back wins against Grenoble and against Montpellier last week, when Antony Belleau had one of his best games so far this season and a big pack performance was rewarded with tries from Raphael Lakafia, Jean Monribot and Flilipo Nakosi, along with a penalty try.

 

Malakai Fekitoa had a fine game along with JP Pitersen and Toulon, like Castres and Clermont before them, can use their counter attacking skill to say with Montpellier’s power game.

 

Advice: 3 pts Toulon +10 (10/11 general)