Wasps (+15) v Leinster (-15)
BT Sport, 3pm Sunday
The drama in the Champions Cup came late on Friday and Saturday nights but the quarter-finals are all said and done with this pool long ago carved up being Leinster and Toulouse. Leinster’s destiny is out of their own hands to some extent; If they win today, as they are long odds on to do, even at the Ricoh, then they will be seeded third and no matter how many tries they score that will be the case.
And win they should, based on the evidence of a pool where they’ve won all but one of their games – that being an epic against Toulouse, form which looks just fine in the light of the French side’s win here along with their Top 14 results – including a 52-3 demolition job of Wasps in the opening gameweek.
The hosts are never an easy game at the Ricoh Arena but they have been extremely troubled this season in a campaign which has been blighted by injuries which have cursed the club for a year now, and that pressure has told on a defence that consistently leaks.
They have won none of their European Cup games and also lost five of their last six, including twice against Bath in both Europe and domestic action.
Dai Young has named a strong team to his credit, with Rob Miller, Josh Bassett, Michele Campagnaro, Elliot Daly, Lima Sopoaga, Dan Robson, Nathan Hughes, Nizaam Carr, Brad Shields, Joe Launchbury, and Jake Cooper-Woolley, but anything they can do Leinster can more than match.
It is a sign of their strength that Jack Conan can be ruled out with a shoulder problem to be replaced by Sean O’Brien with Max Deegan coming onto the bench, and the visiting team has the look of an Irish run out ahead of their rematch with England as Jordan Larmour, Garry Ringrose, Robbie Henshaw, Ross Byrne, Conan, Josh van der Flier, Rhys Ruddock, James Ryan, Devin Toner, Tadhg Furlong, Seán Cronin, and Jack McGrath all in the starting XV.
They should be strong enough to win and win with a bit in hand, but with fair enough weather this could be an end to end points fest. Over 55 is a little high but entirely possible if Wasps play their part.
Advice: 1 pt Leinster to win by 11-20 points (11/4 general), 2 pts Over 54.5 points (10/11 general)
Toulouse (-17) v Bath (+17)
BT Sport, 3pm Sunday
This has been a year of renaissance for Toulouse and they are hotly rated favourites to end it with a fairly comprehensive win over Bath.
The Frenchmen don’t have to worry about the result today – they are set to head towards either Leinster again (likeliest option), fellow compatriots Racing, or Saracens, so they won’t realty be worrying about easing up given that all would be tough games.
In any case the two sides have gone in rather different directions since their meeting earlir on in the competition, when Bath should have beaten Toulouse but for a dropped try and missed penalty from Freddie Burns. Toulouse have never looked back, beating Leinster and doing the double over Wasps whilst also launching an assault on the Top 14 – where they’re just three points behind Clermont and currently set to get a prime spot in the playoffs with a seven-point gap ahead of La Rochelle.
Ugo Mola’s revolution has seen the fantastic back-play of old come right to the fore and in Antoine Dupont they’ve got one of the inform scrumhalves in Europe. With Cheslin Kolbe and Yoann Hughet flying down the wings and the increasingly irresistible Sofiane Guitoune in the centres, there aren’t many defences that can stop them and they will be a force for all if taking their best form into the Spring.
Bath did their confidence good by beating Wasps last week in a tight game with a late penalty from Rhys Priestland but they were beaten 42-15 the week after pushing Leinster hard at The Rec and whilst they’ve got plenty of big names, the gulf in class should tell. Take points on the board and Toulouse to win by a comfortable enough score.
Advice: 1 pt Over 55.5 points (10/11 general), 1 pt Toulouse to win by 11-20 points (11/4 Betfair)
UPDATE: Have just seen the dire, dire weather at Toulouse. Might be best to swerve that one. Things look OK ish at Coventry.