This weekend’s predictions

Date published: January 8 2016

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It is that time of the week when we put our heads on the chopping block with Planet Rugby's predictions.

Welcome to the first edition of 2016 as we team up with Paddy Power to run the rule over the weekend's action, with games in the Champions Cup, Premiership and PRO12 all taking place from Friday to Sunday.

There are eye-catching clashes in the Premiership as Leicester face Northampton and unbeaten Saracens travel to Harlequins, while Toulon host Bath in Europe on Sunday.

Let's take a look at what's out there.

Champions Cup

UBB v Clermont

The first game of the weekend in Europe sees two high-flyers from the Top 14 do battle as Bordeaux-Bègles host Clermont. Both sides have the same amount of wins in the Top 14 this season, seven from 12 games with one draw, but it's Clermont's tally of bonus points that leave them in third place with UBB in fifth. 

UBB have played some thrilling rugby this season and the signings of Sekope Kepu and Adam Ashley-Cooper has helped elevate them into play-off contention. The hosts are still 17/10 outsiders for this one though.

A 1-5 point winning margin for UBB appeals at 5/1, as does David Strettle as the first try-scorer at 17/2 given his recent run of hot form. Look out for new France call-up Paul Jedrasiak as an anytime tryscorer for Clermont at 16/1.

Even with UBB's good form, Clermont need a response and could strike in this contest. An away win by six points.

Elsewhere, we expect Racing 92 to continue their hot run of form with a win over Glasgow Warriors, while Ulster will have to be fancied away to Oyonnax given the French side's struggles this season. Out-of-sorts Stade Français are fresh off a dramatic win over Toulouse for their game with struggling Munster, which they should edge. Finally, Bath face a daunting task heading to face Toulon even with the champions' long list of injuries.

PRO12

Edinburgh v Treviso

Unsurprisingly, Edinburgh are heavy favourites to win at Murrayfield on Friday evening given that Treviso are yet to win a game in either the PRO12 or Champions Cup this season.

Edinburgh also come into this game fresh after winning the 1872 Cup over two legs against Glasgow Warriors during the festive period.

Treviso are big outsiders at 11/2 and even a winning margin of 1-12 points is listed at 8/1. Scotland flanker John Hardie is down at 13/1 as the first try-scorer, while try-hungry prop WP Nel should also be considered as an anytime scorer at 3/1. We expect Edinburgh to win this comfortably, by about 15 points.

Other PRO12 predictions:

Ospreys v Leinster: Ospreys by 5
Scarlets v Connacht: Scarlets by 6

Premiership

Harlequins v Saracens

There's no Brad Barritt, Chris Wyles or Mike Rhodes in the Saracens line-up but even with rotation having taken place, we still fancy the Premiership pace-setters to get the result in Twickenham. The 1-10 point margin looks a good bet as Quins certainly won't go down easily.

A battle at loosehead could be intriguing to watch as the Six Nations awaits, with Joe Marler looking to prove he deserves his spot ahead of Mako Vunipola. The latter prop is always a carrying threat and wouldn't it be perfect for him if he was to open the try-scoring account. We also like the look of his brother, Billy, as an anytime try along with a Quins player who knows his way to the whitewash, Jack Clifford.

Leicester v Northampton

Another big top-half game in the Premiership sees the Saints travel to Welford Road, with Northampton choosing a powerful midfield paring of Luther Burrell alongside George North. JJ Hanrahan will no doubt give the duo plenty of chances to run at Matt Smith and Mathew Tait so the option of Burrell to cross at anytime does tempt us, as does a former Tiger in flanker Jamie Gibson, who'll be a decent price to cross.

The match itself, however, should go the way of the hosts and we like the 1-7 point win for Leicester, with Ben Youngs steering the ship.

Other Premiership predictions:

London Irish v Newcastle: London Irish by 5
Wasps v Worcester: Wasps by 10
Exeter v Gloucester: Exeter by 8

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