Heineken Champions Cup 2018-19 (19th January)

Saracens (-15) v Glasgow (+15)

BT Sport 2, 1pm Saturday

 

There were celebrations all across Scotland last night as Edinburgh’s defeat of Montpellier meant Glasgow also made it through to the quarter-finals. That makes this a dead rubber game, as Saracens are also through. The hosts, shorn of Owen Farrell as he has a thumb operation to go under the mic, are chasing a top spot and have a reasonable 15-point handicap if going hard, whilst Glasgow have a free hit. Saracens have been beaten on the handicap in their last three Premiership outings so some might be wary of taking them to pass a 15-point handicap but we should see plenty of tries if replacement fly half Alex Goode spreads the ball and Glasgow doesn’t know how to play any other way.

 

 

Advice: No bet.

 

 

Cardiff (-13) v Lyon (+13)

BT Sport 3, 1pm Saturday

 

 

Both these sides are eliminated before their meeting at the Arms Park, with Lyon having disappointed in their debut European campaign whilst Cardiff have played admirably although they’ve found the step up from the Challenge Cup a bit too much for them. A13 point handicap for the hosts looks fair but this should be a free flowing game if they can make the Lyon pack run around as they did on the opening weekend and going over on points would probably be the bet.

 

Advice: Look to go high on points lines.

 

Leicester (scr) v Ulster (scr)

BT Sport 2, 3.15pm Saturday

 

Following their exceptional win against Racing last week, Ulster are in control of their European destiny. A win at Welford Road this afternoon would secure progression and they can make it through to the quarters with success here.

 

 

Leicester, although struggling domestically, are tough at beat at Welford Road and even given their elimination they will not lie down in front of a home crowd. However stiff resistance and determination was not enough against Racing, when the French champions swept through with a 34-11 victory and Ulster do have similar amounts of quality judged on their two meetings so far.

 

 

Jacob Stockdale has six tries in the tournament already and was superb in scoring twice against Racing whilst Will Addison has thrived since leaving England and was the top carrier last week. An impressive backline is supplemented by Robert Baloucoune who scored on his debut whilst Louis Ludik dominated his opposite number when the two met on the opening matchweek at fullback.

 

Leicester, having saved their energy for this game, bring Jonny May, Manu Tuilagi, George Ford and Dan Cole back into the side after defeat at the Scarlets last weekend whilst Scotland and Wales call ups Jake Kerr and Jonah Holmes are also present.

 

However, Ulster travel with the 23 to match and a bench of John Cooney, Michael Lowry and Darren Cave is packed with power. Glasgow and Racing (twice) have won here in Europe when seeking results to take them to the quarter-finals and Ulster are value to win by a narrow margin here.

 

 

Advice: 2 pts Ulster to win by 1-12 points (13/8 Ladbrokes)

 

 

Racing 92 v Scarlets

BT Sport 3, 3.15pm Saturday

 

A talk of two different seasons for these two sides, who were both semi-finalists last year but who have taken different directions as Racing are hotly fancied to go through to the quarters and perhaps further whilst Scarlets are already out.

 

Racing’s two home games at the La Defense Arena have finished with bonus point wins (44-12 over Ulster and also 36-26 over Leicester) but an 18-point handicap does look to be just towards the high end given that Scarlets are starting a side with seven Wales players including Jonathan Davies (c), 12 Hadleigh Parkes, 11 Steff Evans, and, Gareth Davies Samson Lee and Rob Evans.

 

 

A high scoring game looks a likelier outcome but the lines are set absurdly high with Betfair going 20/23 on nine tries or more whilst the points line is no lower than 56.7.

 

 

Advice: No bet.

 

Castres (-11) v Gloucester (+11)

BT Sport 3, 5.30pm Saturday

 

Castres would have a typically French campaign if they finished with three wins at home and three defeats on the road and they’re 1/5 to end with victory over Gloucester. However, their wins have come by just four points and one point in the case of Munster (with the help of some dire refereeing) so it might be wise to hold off on any big bets especially in what is a dead rubber.

 

 

Gloucester have lost four of their last five, conceding at least 17 in each of their last six games, and only Henry Walker, Gerbrandt Grobler, Lewis Ludlow, Ollie Thorley and Tom Hudson have kept their place from a very comprehensive defeat at the hands of Munster last weekend so there’s not a huge appetite to get with them on the handicap either.

 

Castres have a completely changed side as well and this could be a bit of a free for all but over 50 looks on the high side.

 

Advice: No bet.

 

 

 

Munster v Exeter

BT Sport 2, 5.30pm Saturday

 

One of the biggest games of the day, if not the biggest, and perhaps the biggest occasion for Exeter in Europe since they were prevented from reaching a first semi-final by the skin of their teeth in 2016.

 

 

Put simply, the Premiership leaders must win if they are to have a chance of sneaking through to a quarter-final – a daunting trip to Edinburgh lies in wait – and whilst they have a tall order, it would be unwise to doubt them too much.

 

 

Johann van Graan is in the driving seat following one of the season’s most impressive performance when Munster turned up to Kingsholm and tore through Gloucester 41-15 to give themselves a fighting chance here. It is easier to name the amount of players that didn’t excel there, especially in a sensational 40 phase, seven-minute line of defence that ran down the clock when the hosts were trying to work their way back into the game. Tadhg Beirne’s work on the ball, Conor’s Murray’s box kicking, and Peter O’Mahony’s tireless work off it were supplemented by Joey Carbery’s two tries, two assists, five conversions and two penalties for a 26 point haul.

 

Exeter were better in victory against Castres when Jack Nowell starred in a masterclass of running rugby at Sandy Park with tries for Joe Simmonds, Jonny Hill, Tom O’Flaherty, Henry Slade and replacement hooker Luke Cowan-Dickie. However Munster managed to grind them out when they visited Sandy Park earlier and there must be a danger of them being shut down once again.

 

The Chiefs have lost at Harlequins and Northampton whilst also losing to 14 man Castres and the hosts, if in the same vein of form as last week, can prove to be too strong. Take them to win by 1-12 points.

 

 

Advice: 2 pts Munster to win by 1-12 points (9/5 Betfair)