Saturday, October 12, 2013

Heineken Cup: Pools 4-6

On the weekend of the 19th (and possibly final) Heineken Cup, Ruck 'n' Roll take a look at the group stages of this year's tournament.

Pools 1-3 are here and below are pools 4-6;

Pool 4: Clermont, Harlequins, Racing Metro, Scarlets
Not quite the 'group of death,' but it's not far away.
Clermont-Auvergne reached the final last year and are among the best club rugby has to offer. They haven't really done much to strength in the summer, but haven't really needed to. They beat the Scarlets convincingly twice last season, who have arguably deteriorated since.
There has been success at the Stoop in the past few years, but little of that has come in the Heineken Cup. They will need a fast start to build confidence, but qualification may be beyond them in such a difficult pool.
The big spenders of rugby, Racing Metro's recruitment policy has resembled the picking of a fantasy rugby team. Jamie Roberts, Jonathan Sexton and Dan Lydiate were all vital cogs the Lions test in the summer and will hope to build a build of history for the club that has little experience in Europe.
Talk of the Scarlets demise has been greatly exaggerated. They lost some big game players, but have played some good rugby at the start of the Pro12. They have been wasteful though and that has ultimately cost them. They would need to be more clinical or run the risk of being embarrassed. The first game at the Stoop could be vital for them.
Verdict: Another group were its doubtful more than one team will make the knockout stages. It's difficult to look past Clermont, but all teams have the ability to upset on the day.
Winner: Clermont-Auvergne 
Runner-up: Racing Metro
Napolioni Nalaga, Clermont-Auvergne, rugby, Heineken Cup, Europe

Pool 5: Treviso, Leicester, Montpellier, Ulster
It would be a great error for anyone to underestimate Treviso. They will be looking for a scalp and are more than able to get it. Where once an Italian side meant bonus points galore, that has now changed and overconfidence could leave any team with egg on their face.
Leicester Tigers will go into every game with the ability to win them, but each comes with it's own perils. If they go in over confident it will give Cockerill something to crow about.
Were it not for an injury to Trinh-Duc in the quarter final last year, Montpellier may have replace Clermont in the semis and maybe even the final. They are on the rise and maybe a force to be reckoned with.
Ulster are a team grounded in their consistency. They narrowly missed out on the top tier rankings and have won 3 from 3 against Leicester at Ravenhill. They are good enough to compete against the best on offer.
Verdict: A group that it is more competitive than it looks on paper. Teams may have to scrap for every point.
Winner: Ulster
Runner-up: Montpellier
Tommy Bowe, Ulster, rugby, Heineken Cup

Pool 6: Edinburgh, Gloucester, Munster, Perpignan
Edinburgh are struggling in the Pro 12 and sit rock bottom of the table. That is not the form you want to enter the Heineken cup in.
The talk of this group will be the return of the Miracle Match at Thomond Park. Gloucester and Munster will meet again in repeat of what was arguably the most unbelievable game of rugby ever played.
Of late both Munster and Gloucester have struggled consistency and Munster find themselves without their finest European performer. Ronan O'Gara has hung up his kicking boots in favour of a coach role in France.
Gloucester have stuttered at the start of their Aviva campaign and slipped up home. Such form would be disastrous in this competition. They have real class in their ranks though and an opening game win could be the start of a decent run for Glaws.
Another team struggling with form and the loss of experience is Perpignan. Blooding new players will serve them in the long run, but they don't appear ready yet. They are good enough to get out of this pool, however, as long as they turn up.
Verdict: All teams in this pool are struggling with any sort of form. Any team that can find something close to consistency will qualify.
Winner: Gloucester 
Runner-up: Perpignan
Henry Trinder, Gloucester, Glaws, Rugby, Europe, Heineken Cup, Amlin Challenge Cup

The tournament promises to one of the best in a long time, let's hope it's not the last time.

The Rolling Stones - The Last Time

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