It's that time of week where we put our heads on the chopping block, and bring you Planet Rugby's predictions from both hemispheres.
It's that time of week where we put our heads on the chopping block, and bring you Planet Rugby's predictions.
The Six Nations takes a break this weekend, but we scarcely pause for breath as a full card of Premiership, Pro12 and Top 14 fixtures are plenty to keep us occupied.
Add to that the start of the Super Rugby season and we're bulging with top class rugby.
With so many games on the go, there is money up for grabs, and we recommend you head down to Paddy Power to get your bets on.
Let's get started.
Sale Sharks v Saracens: Saracens will be itching to bounce back from last week's shock defeat at London Irish, though the Sharks will not be welcoming hosts either. Backing the visitors to triumph by 1-12 should be fruitful at 6/5 with Paddy Power. Many felt David Strettle was unlucky to miss out on England involvement with the Six Nations, but backing the in-form winger to score first is an attractive bet at 17/2. We don't expect this to be an easy game for Sarries by any means, but this week we do expect them to emerge on the right side of the scoreline, and by about 7 points.
Other SuperBru Aviva Premiership Predictions:
Harlequins v Newcastle Falcons: Quins by 9
London Wasps v London Irish: Wasps by 6
Northampton Saints v Worcester Warriors: Saints by 15
Exeter Chiefs v Bath: Bath by 4
Leicester Tigers v Gloucester: Tigers by 6
Ulster v Scarlets: Ulster are huge favourites for this one, and rightly so; their only home defeat this season came at the hands of Glasgow early on in the season. They laboured their way past the Ospreys, but should not run into trouble against the Scarlets' exciting but inexperienced lineup. A home win by 1-12 pays out at 8/5, while 13 or more gives back 4/6. More specifically, 11-15 at 4/1 looks to be the best option. Craig Gilroy is fit and firing, and Jared Payne reverts to his more effective role at 15, but we'd highlight centre Luke Marshall for a first try-scorer punt – he is priced at 12/1 alongside Kiwi number eight Nick Williams. We don't see Ulster running into any problems on Friday, with a likely winning margin of 12 points.
Other SuperBru Pro12 Predictions:
Leinster v Dragons: Leinster by 14
Connacht v Edinburgh: Edinburgh by 6
Cardiff Blues v Glasgow Warriors: Warriors by 4
Munster v Zebre: Munster by 17
Ospreys v Treviso: Ospreys by 13
Toulon v Castres: The European champions take on the league title holders, in fifth and third place respectively, in France this weekend. As is traditionally the case in French rugby, the hosts are comfortable favourites, with a handicap of -12 for Bernard Laporte's men paying out at 10/11 – although Laporte will not be present due to his 13-week ban. Indeed, backing the first points to be logged via a Toulon try is priced at 4/1, with a Toulon penalty at 6/4. Our tip is to stick a few bucks on the home side to win by 11-20 points at 11/5, with a likely winning margin of 14 points.
Super Rugby returns to our screens this week and it's two South African derbies to start as the remaining 11 teams continue their preparations.
2014 promises so much and we're sure, like us, you can't wait for the action to kick-off, with the Chiefs gunning for three successive titles.
Many franchises have recruited well while some were happy to stick with what they had or even look to the future and let their older heads go.
In this preview, we look at the overall winner, conference betting, top try scorer and a few other markets that had us eager to make a punt.
We'll also look at the games taking place in Bloemfontein and Durban so if you're looking to make some money, Paddy Power is the place to go.
Champions: Three in row. It may seem boring but we don't feel title rivals possess the quality at Dave Rennie's disposal as the Chiefs should prevail once again. Liam Messam, Brodie Retallick, Sam Cane, Aaron Cruden, Tom Marshall, Mils Muliaina; the list goes on in terms of a group that many head coaches would walk on hot coals for, and in a long season such as this such depth is imperative. Chiefs to win it at 4/1.
Australian Conference: Possibly the most open we've seen things in Australia for a good few years, the Brumbies, Reds and Waratahs are set to battle it out to finish top of their conference. The Brumbies are arguably stronger than last year in terms of playing personnel with David Pocock back from injury, but they lose head coach Jake White, who walked out on his adopted country and eventually signed at the Sharks.
The Reds look very slick in pre-season and have a man in real form directing matters from fly-half in Quade Cooper. The question mark about Richard Graham's side though is if they have the players outside Will Genia and Cooper who will step up for the former Super Rugby champions.
Finally the Waratahs, who have running threats in Israel Folau, Kurtley Beale, Alofa Alofa and also Michael Hooper. However, after being built up year after year, one wonders if they will be consistent enough to claim this conference. Our prediction is: 1 Brumbies, 2 Waratahs, 3 Reds.
New Zealand Conference: We've already mentioned the Chiefs' playing depth and they will be eager to do what no other franchise has done in Super Rugby history and win three on the bounce. Of the players not discussed earlier, Tim Nanai-Williams and Ben Tameifuna will be threats.
Todd Blackadder has to manage his All Blacks and won't have a vital one for the season as fly-half Dan Carter takes his time off ahead of next year's World Cup. Losing Tom Marshall is a blow to their cause but Israel Dagg, Nemani Nadolo and their rugged pack will put them in the mix.
Meanwhile, the Blues and Hurricanes are the dark horses, with Benji Marshall, Jerome Kaino and Charlie Piutau in Auckland, and Beauden Barrett, Ardie and Julian Savea and also Cory Jane in Wellington, set to thrill us in 2014. Our prediction is: 1 Chiefs, 2 Crusaders, 3 Blues.
South Africa Conference: It's a similar situation to New Zealand in the South African conference as two favourites with the bookies are