Predictions: Champions Cup, Premiership and more

Date published: January 6 2017

This weekend's rescheduled Champions Cup match adds to the domestic fixtures in the Premiership, PRO12 and Top 14.

Emotion will hang over Munster's trip to Racing 92 as Anthony Foley is remembered, with Munster hoping to go top of Pool 1 ahead of Glasgow Warriors with the third win of the group stage.

Meanwhile there are big trips for Leicester Tigers in the Premiership and Toulon in the Top 14 to take on Wasps and Clermont respectively.

Let's see who will come out on top.

CHAMPIONS CUP

Racing 92 v Munster

The original fixture between both teams back in October was postponed following the tragic passing of Foley, and naturally plenty of the pre-match talk from Munster has been centred on delivering a performance for the former captain and coach to be proud of. Munster lost on their previous trip to Paris back in the 2012/2013 season but this should be different, given last season's finalists are already out of contention and bottom of Pool 1 with no points from three matches.

The expectation is that with nothing to play for but pride, Racing will select a weakened XV and fold, focusing instead on trying to make up ground on the top six places in the Top 14 which ensure automatic qualification for next season's tournament. It would be a surprise therefore if the two Laurents, Labit and Travers, opt to take Dan Carter off ice. 

As for Munster, aside from that out-of-sorts loss away to Leicester they have been purring domestically and in Europe. Their defence has been stingy, conceding just two tries in three Champions Cup matches. That side of the ball, and the goalkicking of Tyler Bleyendaal, should be the difference. Munster by five.


PREMIERSHIP

Wasps v Leicester

At the end of a funny old week for Leicester with the sacking of Richard Cockerill, travelling to the Ricoh Arena is the last thing they need. Last weekend's home defeat to Saracens meant that the Tigers dropped out of the top four, the last straw for Richard Cockerill's tenure. 

The hope now has to be that Aaron Mauger's sole voice at the top can get the best out of Leicester, but the Tigers remain ravaged by injuries, Manu Tuilagi's season-ending knee setback the latest on a long list, especially when it comes to the backs.

Depth is hardly an issue for Wasps, with the arrival of Willie le Roux next month only set to keep Dai Young poring over the jigsaw that is his selection policy for the second half of the season. Coming out on top of last weekend's see-saw of a contest against Newcastle Falcons felt like a statement as Wasps momentarily went top of the league, and now with over 25,000 attending on Sunday, they will look to add another bonus point. Christian Wade by the way is red hot right now. Wasps by eight.

Other Premiership predictions:

Newcastle Falcons v Bath: Bath by 3
Gloucester v Worcester Warriors: Gloucester by 7
Harlequins v Sale Sharks: Quins by 9
Northampton Saints v Bristol: Saints by 5
Saracens v Exeter Chiefs: Saracens by 6


PRO12

Scarlets v Ulster

Ulster have been one of the teams shifted out of the play-offs by the Scarlets' recent hot streak, making this a huge opportunity for Les Kiss and his team to regain the momentum. Except, injuries have crippled Ulster in the last few weeks, with Ruan Pienaar now out on the sidelines along with a trop of props in Rodney Ah You, Wiehahn Herbst and Ricky Lutton.

Advantage then to the Scarlets, who are still buzzing from that upset win over Toulon which they followed up by defeating Cardiff Blues last weekend. Liam Williams and DTH van der Merwe were both missing for that victory and are expected to leave the region at the end of the season too, but the Scarlets pack plenty of firepower even in their absence through Johnny McNicholl and Steff Evans in the back three.

Ulster on the other get back Rory Best, Iain Henderson, Paddy Jackson and Luke Marshall, Ireland internationals all, for the trip to West Wales. That feels like a huge advantage, particularly if Jackson continues his recent form. Ulster by three.

Other PRO12 predictions: 

Newport Gwent Dragons v Treviso: Treviso by 3
Leinster v Zebre: Leinster by 25
Ospreys v Connacht: Ospreys by 9
Glasgow Warriors v Cardiff Blues: Glasgow by 9


TOP 14

Clermont v Toulon

Franck Azema rested a number of top stars for last week's trip to Toulouse and lost as expected as a result, although the losing bonus point was a useful consolation moving forward. That result means that Clermont are now tied at the top with La Rochelle, who face an imminently easier fixture in Round 16 at home to Castres, which means for the first time in what feels like forever les Jaunards could be out of first place come Monday.

The injury to Patricio Fernández is a cruel setback but back comes Camille Lopez and the rest of the starters for Sunday in a game that Clermont will be favourites for at the Stade Marcel Michelin regardless of the strength of Toulon's starting XV.

Victory for Toulon, five points behind, would be enormous but like we said, there's no guarantee that Mike Ford will opt for a full-strength side with the Champions Cup double header on the horizon and Toulon needing to work hard to gain a runners-up spot behind Saracens in Pool 2. Advantage then to the hosts. Clermont by six.

Other Top 14 predictions: 

Montpellier v Bordeaux-Bègles: Montpellier by 9
Brive v Grenoble: Brive by 5
Pau v Lyon: Pau by 8
La Rochelle v Castres: La Rochelle by 12
Stade Français v Toulouse: Toulouse by 4

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