It is that time of the week again when 'Orrible Punt sits down in the Planet Rugby hot-seat to give you his calls. Brace yourself for the Heineken Cup.
Remember you can contact Russ with all your comments and questions on Twitter - @rpetty80.
An injury hit Ospreys side showed plenty of spirit in Round 3 but succumbed to the rouge et noir juggernaut. The visitors have reached the quarter-finals 13 times and the final on 6 occasions, Heineken Cup royalty if you like, winning 33/58 European away games by 23-21 along the way. Toulouse have won 4 of their last 8 European away matches by 24-21 and been victorious on 7/13 trips to Wales by 22-18. In the Top 14 this season, it's 2/5 away successes by 26-24. If you watched them against Treviso you may have picked up a whiff of complacency - at least until they brought on the big guns second-half and whilst they can point to a scrum with 97% success, the line-out has only functioned at 76%. A choice of power over finesse perhaps? Ospreys are no pushovers on their own turf and have won 18 of the last 20 home games in the competition by 29-15, and 14/18 league games by 25-14. They have won 8/10 home games against French sides by 21-17, with only Toulouse beating them. If the hosts are looking for inspiration then Ebbw Vale lost 108-16 by Toulouse in 1998/9 but won the return leg 19-11. There's always a risk involved but I want to take on the French this week as they are missing Luke McAlister and a host of other backline regulars. I think they may be happy with just doing enough, so Ospreys +7 it is.
Leinster have won 41/49 home group stage games by an average of 31-15 and 24 of the last 26 matches by 34-13, with just losses to London Irish and Bath spoiling the record. As you would imagine, they are just as strong in the PRO12, winning 50/54 regular season games by 29-14. Their great record of 18/21 against French sides by 30-15 and have beaten Clermont by scores of 12-9, 29-28 and 24-8. The visitors have won 3/6 away games in Top 14 by 15-14 (with 5/6 games going under 30 points) and 9 of the last 19 by 17-15. In the Heineken Cup, 'les Jaunards' have won 10/32 away games by 23-21 and lost 6/6 matches at Irish teams by 14-23. The famous April 2010 quarter-final saw an early 10 point Clermont lead overtaken and a fly-half meltdown, while it's often forgotten that the French team's kicking accuracy was actually worse in the December 2010 Pool game - a drop from 45.5% to a sickly looking 25%. Leinster therefore have the chance to reopen old wounds, though Brock James may miss the game. I've been lured into the 'Leinster have injuries, short turnaround between games, Clermont's great squad depth' trap before and paid dearly for it so this time I'm backing Leinster to get the job done by 1-12 points at 2.75.
If Racing Metro's benefactor tuned in last week to check out his new front-row signings, there would have been cause for concern. Conversely those that backed last year's finalists to go one step better this season at a whopping 29.0 would have been delighted. It's not often that the Saints get so comprehensively pushed around, especially at home. No Johann Muller is a concern for the hosts' line-out this week, but the unbeaten Ulstermen have won all 4 league home games by 27-12 and 22/26 games at Ravenhill by 24-15. In Europe, it's 36 wins from 52 attempts by 23-17 and they've won the last 13 games there by 25-12. They beat Saints 16-13 in the 2002/3 season and since that match have won 9/10 games against English opposition by 24-13. Saints are without banned skipper Dylan Hartley and have won just 1 of the last 5 away games in the competition by 22-27 (16/37 matches overall by 22-22). In the Premiership, they've won 3/5 trip so far by 20-21 and 14 of the previous 29 matches by 20-20. The -11 point handicap looks big but Ulster have won their last 3 home group stage games by over 20 points, including that dismantling of Leicester, so I am backing them to heap more misery on Northampton on Saturday.
You'll be hard pushed to find avoid the word 'nomadic' when reading a Saracens preview this season and this is only the third game they will have played at Vicarage Road, the others being 5 point wins over Wasps and Gloucester. They've won 7/10 league games by 21-15, scoring and conceding just 9 tries. In the Heineken Cup, they've won 14/21 home games by 32-22 but just 3 of the last 8 by 21-22. Munster have won once from 4 attempts in the PRO12 this season by 20-25 and 12/23 in the preceding 2 seasons by 18-18. In Europe, they've won 32/62 away games by 22-22 and 3 of the last 8 by 21-24. It's 9/17 against English teams by an average of 22-22. Those averages would normally suggest that keeping an eye out for the draw is wise (available at 23.0), but the visitors do have superiority in the head-to-head, having beat Saracens in all 4 meetings by a margin of 1-6 points. Munster's set-piece has operated at below 80% this tournament but they did exert great pressure on Saracens line-out last week. Munster conceded 21 penalties in Round 3, while Saracens turned the ball over 18 times and missed 4 penalty attempts so both will likely be disappointed with last week yet will feel their opposition is there for the taking. I'm going to take the visitors +5 in what will likely be another scrappy affair at Vicarage Road.
It's 196.0 that both Leinster / Clermont and Saracens / Munster matches go without a try again, while a first try double of Juan Imhoff and Imanol Harinordoquy on Friday is 209.0 with both scoring anytime at 14.72. If you agree with some journalists that the competition is predictable then it's 10.26 for all 12 'favourites' to win and a far-fetched 2220.0 shot for those fancied teams to cover their respective handicaps. Two Connacht players were sin-binned last week - it's 7.0 for that to occur again and with two Biarritz coaches fired this week and a few head-butts going unpunished at the Sportsground - 21.0 for a red card may appeal.