The Heineken Cup is back – and what an impression it’s made! After two rounds of scintillating European rugby, we’re about to head into the Autumn Internationals before the crucial double headers in December. Some teams can head into the break with a spring in their step’s, but others see their campaigns dangling by a thread. Here’s we stand after two rounds:
Leinster certainly wouldn’t have believed the press heading into their clash with Toulouse, but plenty did – some had already handed the Dubliners the title. The Frenchmen are seemingly back to their old best and their impressive win on Sunday was a massive boost for the competition. It was obvious at the final whistle that Leo Cullen took the defeat in his stride especially after attaining a bonus point, being brought back down to Earth specifically certainly won’t harm their chances moving forward. Bath will expect a backlash in the upcoming double header and following their draw with Wasps after both teams suffered a reverse in round one – the English teams will do well to make this anything other than a two-horse race.
This is perhaps the closest pool to call; Exeter sit on 3 points but were it not for a lack of final minute composure they could easily be on 9. For some reason, Europe is proving a tough nut to crack for the Chiefs, but they’re not out of contention just yet. As always, Munster were impressive at home and their double header against French Champions Castres will go a long way to shaping the destiny of the pool – will the French team finally take an interest in this great competition? On their day Gloucester can upset anyone – but they remain outsiders to progress.
Saracens are two from two and are quietly going about their business, they will expect to be four from four after facing off against the Blues in the upcoming double header. Glasgow brought the Welsh outfit back to Earth with a bump (if you could identify them) after a great win in round one – it’s all uphill for them now. After two defeats, Lyon are likely to lose interest, which could leave us with a winner takes all showdown in round 6 between Saracens and Glasgow.
It’s not often that Leicester are second favourites going into a home European clash under the lights at Welford road – but that was the case on Friday. However, the men from the East Midlands had other ideas and put in a performance to show the old Tiger still has its snarl as they overturned last year’s semi-finalists – Scarlets. The Llanelli based outfit were in the same position last, and they’ll back themselves to pull it off again. The prospect of Ulster home and away wont scare them, but they really can afford no more slip-ups. The Irish province won’t have given up on progression either so these matches are worth tuning into. Racing, however look like difficult prospect for any of the other three to catch and last years runners-up are showing why they’ve been touted to reach the latter stages once again.
In a pool that contains European heavyweights – Toulon and big spenders Montpellier – nobody would have thought that comparative minnows Newcastle and Edinburgh would be occupying the top to spots at this stage. There is still a way to go in this one, Leicester old boys Dean Richards and Richard Cockerill going head to head in the back-to-back December matches will be intriguing on and off the pitch; but the well-matched nature of their two teams could yet leave the door open for Montpelier.
Wherever you look, there are great match-ups coming across all 5 pools. December is often described as the pivotal time in the pool stages and this year looks to be no different.
Written By James Jones – 10/25/18