Ahead of the opening round of this season’s European Champions Cup, we take a look at the best bets for the tournament winner and top try-scorer.
Holders Leinster begin the competition at home to Wasps on Friday before mouth-watering games take place between Exeter Chiefs and Munster and Scarlets and Racing 92 on Saturday. Sunday’s stand-out match comes from Scotstoun Stadium where Glasgow Warriors take on Saracens, who are once again title contenders.
Speaking of which, let’s go through the runners and riders for 2018/19…
Champions Cup winner
It’s unsurprising that last season’s champions Leinster have been installed as the bookmakers’ favourites at a best price of 9/4 with Betway. Next up in the list is Saracens (10/3 with Sportingbet and BetBright), Montpellier (9/1 with Unibet and 888sport), Exeter Chiefs (11/1 with Boyle Sports and SpreadEx), Racing 92 (14/1 with Betstars and BetBright) before Munster (14/1) and Scarlets (20/1) follow up.
On paper it’s tough to look past Leinster and Saracens in terms of on-field quality and experience in the knockout stage but Exeter Chiefs and Racing 92 look decent outside bets for glory. The Parisians are oozing talent while the Chiefs continue to impress in the Premiership under Rob Baxter.
One leftfield pick which might raise an eyebrow would be Castres, due in part to a whopping 250/1 price with SpreadEx, which is incredibly generous as Christophe Urios’ men have shown that when it comes to knockout rugby, they are horrible to face. Should they progress, watch out for them.
Champions Cup top try-scorer
Now this is a punt that comes with complications as one must factor in how much James Lowe will play for Leinster due to the Champions Cup rule that allows only two ‘non-Europeans’ in a 23. Remember last season they had to decide on two of Jamison Gibson-Park, Scott Fardy and Lowe? He is best priced at 11/1 with Betway in a decent bet but should injury hit at scrum-half or back-row he may be sacrificed.
The market leader here is Montpellier wing Nemani Nadolo at 9/1 with various bookies but he should be avoided due to a knee injury. After Lowe we have David Strettle (12/1 with Betfair), in-form Saracens team-mate Liam Williams (12/1 with several) and another Leinster wing, improving youngster Jordan Larmour (18/1 with Boyle Sports).
One outside bet we like here is current Top 14 pace-setter Simon Zebo (40/1 with Betfair). He has already crossed six times in that competition and his team-mate, Teddy Thomas, is also tempting at 33/1 with Boyle Sports.