Predictions: Champions Cup, Challenge Cup

Date published: January 20 2017

It all comes down this weekend for many sides trying to sneak their way into the last eight of this season’s European Cups.

Check out our permutations piece on Round 6 of the Champions Cup for the full debrief as here we focus on the outcome of each game, with Toulon’s visit to Saracens and Toulouse facing Connacht the pick of the bunch.

Let’s begin!

CHAMPIONS CUP

Saracens v Toulon

Last year’s champions are through despite the draw away to Scarlets blotting a previously perfect copybook in Europe so far this season, which makes Saturday’s fixture all about Toulon and whether they can travel to Allianz Park and get enough points to go through as one of the best runners-up.

Two of those spots are realistically up for grabs given the congestion in Pool 2 (more on that later), so what Toulon have to hear is a defeat without a bonus point, which could open the door for one of Montpellier or Exeter Chiefs.

Richard Cockerill it seems hasn’t wasted any time getting his message across to Toulon’s pack that they need to toughen up and where better to measure that progress than in the backyard of the English champions, somewhere Cockerill and Toulon head coach Mike Ford know very well indeed.

Saracens were seconds away from losing at Parc y Scarlets but the return of a number of front-line backs, although no Brad Barritt who is still suspended, plus the boot of Owen Farrell should be enough to see them home. Quick fact: Saracens have won their last 11 home games in Europe, averaging 42 points in that run. Saracens by six.

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Leicester v Glasgow

In the hunt for another of those runners-up places are Glasgow Warriors, who came off second best in that arm wrestle at Scotstoun last weekend with Munster which has seen more headlines this week regarding the treatment of Conor Murray than the actual contest itself. It seems like a lifetime ago now but Glasgow’s Round 1 pummelling of the Tigers was a stunning result that served notice that they mean business.

Leicester in recent weeks have been tough to predict. After having shown there was some fight in them away to Wasps they were dire away to Racing 92, ending any hopes of progressing, but the main reason for not writing off Aaron Mauger’s team this week is their imperious European record, having lost only one of their last 34 European games on home soil.

Equally, there is nothing to play for but pride for the hosts with no chances of progressing. Glasgow’s task couldn’t be clearer – win and they are definitely through. Finn Russell won’t be wasting any time to knock over drop goals this week. Desperation could be key. Glasgow by five.

Toulouse v Connacht

The game of the weekend. Connacht did their part with a bonus-point win over Zebre and then Dan Robson upset the apple cart with his last-minute try to sink Toulouse in Coventry, given us this peach of a final day showdown on Sunday.

All the permutations are here – take your time reading them – but going back to Round 1, Connacht were highly impressive in their comeback at the Sportsground on a day where Toulouse were in fine form, especially in the build-up to Jean-Marc Doussain’s try.

Ten points down, Connacht dug deep and ground out a win, and more of that spirit will be needed on Sunday if they are to make the knockout stages for the first time. Don’t forget either that Connacht won their last away game in Toulouse in the 2013/14 season. They also top the charts for carries, metres, clean breaks and defenders beaten this season, and they are the only team in the competition to average more than 20 minutes of possession per game (20m 13s). Connacht by three.

Other Champions Cup predictions:

Castres v Leinster: Leinster by 8
Montpellier v Northampton: Montpellier by 12
Ulster v Bordeaux-Bègles: Ulster by 9
Clermont Auvergne v Exeter Chiefs: Clermont by 9
Sale Sharks v Scarlets: Scarlets by 6
Munster v Racing 92: Munster by 12
Zebre v Wasps: Wasps by 50


CHALLENGE CUP

Edinburgh v Timisoara Saracens: Edinburgh by 20
Brive v Newport Gwent Dragons: Brive by 9
Worcester Warriors v Enisey-STM: Worcester by 20
Bath v Pau: Bath by 25
Cardiff Blues v Bristol: Blues by 15
Lyon v Grenoble: Lyon by 8
Newcastle Falcons v Ospreys: Ospreys by 3
Gloucester v Bayonne: Gloucester by 7
La Rochelle v Treviso: La Rochelle by 20
Stade Français v Harlequins: Stade by 6


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