Round 5 of the Champions Cup starts on Friday night with a mouth-watering clash between Bath and Scarlets before the weekend throws up several intriguing contests, which includes Racing 92 hosting Munster.
Ulster v La Rochelle is also a crucial encounter and will play a vital role in the outcome of Pool 1, while Ospreys’ home game against Saracens is important for both teams, with a loss for the visitors ending their Champions Cup defence.
The West Countrymen are currently in pole position to qualify from Pool 5 but, going into arguably their most important game of the season, they have struggled recently.
Three successive Premiership defeats hampered their domestic campaign before Bath finally got themselves back on track by defeating Worcester.
Meanwhile, the Scarlets are in fine form, securing five successive victories in all competitions, meaning that they are well placed in both the PRO14 and Champions Cup.
They will therefore fancy themselves of getting through to the knockout stages, with the Welsh region just one point behind Friday’s opponents, but the late withdrawals of Leigh Halfpenny and Johnny McNicholl could be crucial in the end result. With the hosts being boosted by the return of Sam Underhill, we put them as favourites. Bath by 4
Racing endured a difficult 2016/17 season, both domestically and in Europe, but they seem ready for another tilt at reaching the latter stages of the Champions Cup.
The French outfit were finalists in the 2016 version and a victory over Munster this weekend would, at the very least, give them an opportunity of trying to equal that feat.
Not that the Irish province have any ideas of succumbing to the Top 14 club with Johann van Graan’s men hoping to secure a home quarter-final. A place in the last eight looks assured for the PRO14 side, with their game against Castres at Thomond Park in Round 6 appearing a sure-fire win, but they will probably need to overcome Racing on Sunday for a much-coveted home match in the knockout stages.
It sets up an interesting tussle between two teams with plenty to play for but, despite the visitors’ experience in this competition having lifted the trophy twice, Racing are in fine form and defeated Clermont 58-6 last Sunday. Racing by 3.
Other Champions Cup predictions:
Ulster v La Rochelle: La Rochelle by 11
Harlequins v Wasps: Wasps by 8
Northampton Saints v Clermont: Clermont by 10
Ospreys v Saracens: Saracens by 12
Exeter Chiefs v Montpellier: Exeter by 6
Leinster v Glasgow Warriors: Leinster by 15
Castres v Leicester Tigers: Castres by 5
Toulon v Benetton Rugby: Toulon by 20