Heineken Cup Pool 6: Gloucester and Perpignan will be looking to beat Munster to the top
The greatest club competition in the world returns to Sky Sports this weekend and we look at the contenders in Pool 6.
Last Updated: 09/10/13 3:17pm
Edinburgh may be the odd one out but the other three all have vulnerabilities too. Munster are favourites to finish top, but they are not the force they were.
Gloucester and Perpignan will both fancy their chances of beating the Irish giants at home. Perpignan's away pedigree counts against them whilst Gloucester are world-beaters one week, awful the next. It's a pool that is there for the taking.
Last season: Pool stages
Head coach: Alan Solomons
Captain: Greig Laidlaw
Sky Bet odds: 150-1
Key man: Greig Laidlaw - top-notch in attack, and a fine boot.
Overview: Edinburgh have been in decline for the past two years and could quickly become also-rans unless new coach Alan Solomons can improve their defence. The pack is combative, with the likes of Ross Ford, David Denton, Roddy Grant and the rising star Grant Gilchrist all warriors, but they are currently vulnerable both home and away and are already struggling in the RaboDirect PRO12. They lost six out of six in the Heineken Cup last year and sadly 150-1 to win the tournament is about right. However the draw, as it turns out, has been kind to them and there are question marks against all four teams. Don't rule them out yet.
Last season: Did not qualify
Head coach: Nigel Davies
Captain: Tom Savage
Sky Bet odds: 66-1
Key man: Freddie Burns - arguably the most talented back in England.
Overview: After a terrible start to the season Gloucester are back on track and in an open pool they should be challenging for top spot. They have stardust in the backs - Billy Twelvetrees, fly-half Freddie Burns and James Simpson-Daniel - and there are some hard noses in the pack with young skipper Tom Savage leading the charge along with an exciting back row of Ben Morgan, Matt Kvesic and Sione Kalamafoni. They won't win it, but a place in the last eight is possible.
Last season: Semi-finals
Head coach: Rob Penney
Captain: Peter O'Mahony
Ground: Thomond Park
Sky Bet odds: 22-1
Key man: Ian Keatley - the new fly-half needs to bed in quickly now that Ronan O'Gara has gone.
Overview: Munster are in transition. Ronan O'Gara is no longer there to boot them out of trouble and they are vulnerable away from home, as Treviso have already proved this season. Their record in the Heineken Cup though is pretty impressive. They usually find a way to win and the old sweats in the pack and the likes of Keith Earls and Simon Zebo in the backs should see them through to at least the quarter-finals, but they cannot take their foot off the gas for a moment in any of their matches, or else.
Last season: Did not qualify
Head coach: Giampiero De Carlo
Captain: Bertrand Guiry
Ground: Stade Aime Giral
Sky Bet odds: 40-1
Key man: James Hook. No-one in France - where he is a superstar - can understand his treatment by Wales.
Overview: Perpignan are traditionally almost impossible to beat at the Stade Aime Giral, and completely hopeless away. Nothing seems to have changed this season. At home they have beaten Toulouse, Montpellier and French champions Castres, and only lost by a point in the last minute to league leaders Stade Francais. Away they have lost all their matches, including at struggling Bayonne and Brive. Prop Nicolas Mas has gone too, but look out for their fly-half Camille Lopez, newly capped by France whose arrival from Bordeaux has seen Hook move to full-back. All the ingredients are there - a gigantic pack and exciting backs including ex-Munster hero Lifeimi Mafi - but something needs to change when they leave the safety of home.
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