Predictions: Champions Cup, Challenge Cup

Date published: January 13 2017

Round 5 and 6 of the Champions Cup and Challenge Cup take place this weekend as teams battle to stay alive in both competitions.

The penultimate round is often the make or break for most sides and Pool 2 undoubtedly holds the most intrigue, with three teams all tied on 13 points at the top.

Let's see who will come out on top.

CHAMPIONS CUP

First things first, make sure you sign up for our excellent Champions Cup Fantasy game with our friends over at SuperBru.

Leinster v Montpellier

Leo Cullen can head into Friday's Champions Cup clash knowing this; win, and his side will top Pool 4 and book a home quarter-final. This season's final will mark five years since Leinster's last crown and while the road back to European glory is a long one, and requires a more or less perfectly clean bill of health, the three-time champions have flashed this season in Europe, their 10-point haul from the double header with Northampton putting them in control.

Leinster take a five-point margin into Friday's game at the RDS and a win will put them out of sight of second-place Montpellier, who arrive in Dublin with a monster pack.

The loss of Sean Cronin at hooker for Leinster is significant, even though James Tracy has gone well when called upon this season, but this feels like an opportunity for Jack McGrath, Tadgh Furlong and Josh van der Flier to enhance their already glowing reputations. Get ahead early, and Leinster will win. Leinster by six.

Wasps v Toulouse

Barring a disaster Connacht even with all their injuries should take all five points at home to Zebre earlier in the day on Saturday, which puts the pressure on Wasps and Toulouse to play catch up. Toulouse's recent record against Premiership opposition – lost three, drawn one – is certainly significant, and they have not travelled well to England in the last few campaigns.

Wasps meanwhile have proved they are almost peerless in Europe when it comes to attacking rugby with that first-half effort against Leicester, and Christian Wade is in outstanding form, but the second half wobble was a reminder that they are not yet the finished article. James Haskell's absence is a blow, balanced out by Joe Launchbury, Elliot Daly and Tommy Taylor all being passed fit.

As for Toulouse, there is more to come from the pack but Yoann Huget and Maxime Médard – remember them? – both shone in last weekend's win over Stade Français. At their best that duo still have plenty of class. Home advantage to sway this one though. Wasps by seven.

Glasgow Warriors v Munster

Don't think we are oblivious to the article comments, the build-up to this game has been going on between some of you for weeks! Munster, rampant in Paris (sorry, Colombes), have an impressive points difference of 82 in the toughest pool in the competition and can book their spot in the quarter-finals by winning at Scotstoun. That first fixture, the week after Anthony Foley passed away, was one of the more emotionally charged matches anywhere in recent memory and a one-way demolition from Peter O'Mahony, CJ Stander and co. 

The rematch should be slightly closer, even though Munster have won on four of their last five European visits to Scotland, although the last one did end in defeat to Edinburgh. There has rightly been extensive praise for Munster's attack, the emergence of Rory Scannell and Darren Sweetnam combining with Simon Zebo and Jaco Taute's good form, but it is in defence were Munster have been most impressive, conceding just 42 points thus far, fewer than anyone else.

Glasgow proved with that hammering of Leicester at home back in Round 1 that they know how to pull a side apart and expect Tommy Seymour and Stuart Hogg to cause plenty of damage, while Finn Russell once again will be called upon to play at his peak.

Fun fact: Munster have averaged more turnovers won per game (10) than any other side in the campaign. Glasgow however have conceded the joint fewest turnovers of any side on average (11 per game). This will be tight, but we're rolling with the red machine. Munster by five.

Other Champions Cup predictions:

Connacht v Zebre: Connacht by 20
Northampton Saints v Castres: Northampton by 5
Racing 92 v Leicester Tigers: Leicester by 6
Bordeaux-Bègles v Clermont Auvergne: Clermont by 9
Scarlets v Saracens: Saracens by 10
Toulon v Sale Sharks: Toulon by 15
Exeter Chiefs v Ulster: Ulster by 3


CHALLENGE CUP

Grenoble v Newcastle Falcons: Falcons by 6
Newport Gwent Dragons v Enisey-STM: Dragons by 15
Bristol v Bath: Bath by 8
Timisoara Saracens v Stade Français: Stade by 25
Treviso v Gloucester: Gloucester by 9
Harlequins v Edinburgh: Harlequins by 10
Pau v Cardiff Blues: Pau by 3
Brive v Worcester Warriors: Brive by 9
Ospreys v Lyon: Ospreys by 18

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