Heineken Cup preview
The Rugby Club guests Ieuan Evans, Shaun Edwards and Tom Rees look ahead to this week's big Heineken Cup clashes...
Last Updated: October 18, 2013 10:27am
Tom Rees, Shaun Edwards and Ieuan Evans pick their ties of the weekend.
Leicester v Treviso
IEUAN: Leicester started really well and put Ulster under all sorts of pressure, but Ulster came back strongly in the second-half. Leicester responded under pressure and showed a bit of character to win their losing bonus point. They won't have enjoyed losing, but they got something out of it and that gives them a chance this week. They need to win against Treviso, you have to win your home games, and you would expect them to win. Treviso will cause problems up front, they are a big physical outfit, but Leicester's set-piece is exceptionally good and I don't anticipate any problems there.
Saracens v Toulouse
TOM: The temptation against a side like Toulouse, with the history they have in the Heineken Cup is for Saracens to say 'we really need to win this home game because home games are crucial', having not picked up a bonus point away in Connaught which is not the easiest place to go in the world. The temptation would be to tighten it up and focus purely on getting the win, but I'd like to see them go at it a bit with the abandon they've had in the league. I'd like to think they'll really throw the ball around, look to keep it alive and give Ashton and Wyles the chance to go in.
Cardiff Blues v Toulon
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IEUAN: The Blues have to bounce back and they will be playing on an artificial surface, which will give them a bit of an advantage. But Toulon were sublime in the first half last week in Glasgow and played some wonderful stuff - whereas the Blues were playing anything but wonderful stuff. Exeter demolished them in the first half, but at one point at the end of the first half, the Blues had missed more tackles than Exeter had to make. That shows how one-sided it was. Toulon have an all-code game - they can play it tough and tight or open and expansive. They have so much talent there and I think they've got every chance of winning the tournament back-to-back.
Leinster v Castres
IEUAN: Leinster are very physical and very aggressive and have a slightly more pragmatic approach under Matt O'Connor than they had under Josef Schmidt - but they've lost Jonny Sexton, who was very much part of the game with quick hands and moving the point of focus. He's a little bit different. They've also lost Isa Nacewa, who was a really excellent footballing brain for them in the back line. It's a slightly different approach and Matt O'Connor is bringing his own stamp to this game.
Montpellier v Ulster
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IEUAN: Ulster, at their strongest, have a great off-loading game and lovely interplay between backs and forwards. But they have to go to Montpellier and they are one of my dark horses for the tournament. I think it is going to be really tough for Ulster to win out there. I think that's going to be a great test for Ulster, who in the second-half last week were outstanding. It's going to be a tough ask for Ulster to go and win there, but it should be a great game.
Scarlets v Racing Metro
IEUAN: Racing Metro brought a heavyweight pack and a terrific defence last week against Clermont. We look at Scarlets last week and two of their tries came from counter-attacks and the reason was the kicking game of Rhys Priestland and Rhodri Williams was outstanding. That's the clue for Scarlets; they need to bring the kicking game and create those opportunities; they don't come from nothing, they come from generating pressure and territorial advantage and forcing mistakes. That's what they want to do to Racing Metro.
Northampton v Ospreys
SHAUN: Alun Wyn Jones has the innate anger inside him that all great rugby players have. He obviously captained the Lions in the third Test and will be using that inspirational and motivational way to get the Ospreys at the level that they need to be at to win this game. Franklin's Gardens is going to be a difficult place to win, but they are very strong in defence and I think they will have to try and build a score; let's be honest, you're not going to go to Franklin's Gardens and blow Northampton away.
Perpignan v Edinburgh
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IEUAN: Edinburgh produced an outstanding victory over Munster and really responded to the criticism levied at them throughout the season. They had a really disappointing start in the Rabo, but they really came up strong. They were very physical and really moved around a lacklustre Munster who didn't look like they were mentally prepared for the onslaught. The atmosphere at Stade Aime Giral will be a lot different to a fairly empty-ish Murrayfield. It really is a gladiatorial-style feel in Perpignan and they are good at home, even if they are not so good away from home. They are a big physical outfit, especially up front and will cause problems for Edinburgh - who need to show exactly the same commitment and hunger that they showed last week.
Also live on Sky Sports this weekend: Munster v Gloucester, Zebre v Connacht, Clermont Auvergne v Harlequins, Glasgow v Exeter
You can also watch all of the games online on the Heineken Cup Events Centre