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Heineken Cup – Pool Predictions & Fixture Details

The Heineken Cup returns this weekend and after endless speculation about its future it is fantastic to be able to talk about the rugby again.

Ahead of the weekend matches, we take a preview each pool and give you the details about all of this weekend’s fixtures.

Heineken Cup 2013/14 Groups (Predicted Qualifiers in bold)

1

2

3

4

5

6

Castres

Cardiff

Connacht

Clermont

Leicester

Edinburgh

Leinster

Exeter

Saracens

Harlequins

Montpellier

Gloucester

Northampton

Glasgow

Toulouse

Racing

Treviso

Munster

Ospreys

Toulon

Zebre

Scarlets

Ulster

Perpignan

Pool One:

One of the toughest pools in the competition in our view, Castres won the Top 14 last year and have recruited well, they are a threat to any side.

Leinster are among the best in the competition and have been for years, but with Joe Schmidt now with Ireland will they still be able to sparkle as they have in the past?

Northampton Saints are the coming force and with the addition of George North in particular they are a threat from anywhere, one of the form sides in Europe.

The Ospreys have the appearance of a side high on confidence, with their Lions looking rejuvenated and hungry after their summer exploits. They probably wont qualify from this but on their day they will be able to beat anyone.

We have Leinster to qualify but in truth it could as easily be Saints or even Castres. It seems certain that only the top side will qualify though, the competitiveness of the group will mean that too many points will be dropped for two to progress.

Week One Fixtures:

Saturday 16.40 Castres v Northampton Saints

Saturday 18.00 Ospreys v Leinster

Pool Two:

Toulon stands out in this group by a stretch, the champions will be feeling highly confident of progressing.

Glasgow, Exeter and Cardiff are all capable of beating top sides but probably lack the depth to be able to maintain a serious challenge, particularly when Toulon are the challengers.

Glasgow probably stand the best chance though, their domestic form has been superb and it would be a huge boost for Scottish rugby, and the Heineken Cup’s future, if a Scottish side could do well.

Week One Fixtures:

Sunday 12.45 Exeter Chiefs v Cardiff Blues

Sunday 16.00 Toulon v Glasgow Warriors

Pool Three:

This has all the appearance of a big two horse race between Saracens and Toulouse, Saracens are the dominant side in the Premiership at the moment but Toulouse know how to play this tournament better than anyone.

Zebre will not pose a threat to either, though Connacht could make life difficult, particularly on a wet and wild night in Galway, something Saracens will need to look out for tomorrow.

The likelihood is though that with Zebre and Connacht in the group both Saracens and Toulouse will qualify, rather bolstering the English and French complaints about the Heineken Cup.

Week One Fixtures:

Friday 20.00 Connacht v Saracens

Friday 21.00 Toulouse v Zebre

Pool Four:

Clermont are the standout team here, indeed they were the standout team in the tournament last year, and they will expect that barring a catastrophe they will progress.

The question for the other three is can any of them separate themselves from the pack and mount a serious challenge to progress as one of the best second placed teams?

Racing Metro have some superb players and have recruited brilliantly this summer but you wonder if this might be a year early for them. Scarlets can play brilliantly at times but are surely too inconsistent to mount a proper challenge, losing George North will not have helped either.

Harlequins could challenge, if they can find some rhythm to their offload game then they can beat anyone, however at the moment they do not quite look balanced enough and are lacking a bit too much grunt in the tight five.

Week One Fixtures:

Saturday 15.40 Harlequins v Scarlets

Sunday 21.00 Racing Metro v Clermont Auvergne

Pool Five:

Another belter of a pool, any one of Ulster, Leicester and Montpellier could top it.

Treviso will tail end the pool but have shown over the last few years that at home they are as competitive as anyone and they have the ability to win games and to really spoil the progress of any side that fails to respect them enough.

Ulster are our favourites, their European form over the last few years just giving them the edge in our view, however Montpellier are one of the coming forces in European rugby and boast some very special players.

Leicester are Leicester, champions of England, as strong and as deep as ever, they have every chance of progressing from this group but they must win in either Ulster or Montpellier to progress.

With such a competitive group it seems that only one team will progress, the chances of the second placed team amassing enough points just seems too remote. Ulster are our guess, but only just.

Week One Fixtures:

Friday 20.00 Ulster v Leicester Tigers

Saturday 14.35 Treviso v Montpellier

Pool Six:

The weakest group of the lot in our view, Munster and Perpignan are not the forces they once were, while Edinburgh are desperately short on confidence and squad depth, while Gloucester are not yet complete enough to truly compete on the European circuit.

The outcome of the group will depend in part on how Munster cope without O’Gara’s Heineken Cup knowledge. They still have plenty of European experience so we back them to progress from this group, however they will miss him when the pressure comes on we suspect.

Perpignan may just sneak through in second place as in a weak group there could be plenty of points to be picked up.

Of course having written the group off it will now likely become the most competitive of the lot and the group that produces the winner.

Week One Fixtures:

Saturday 13.35 Edinburgh v Munster (Pool 6)

Saturday18.00 Gloucester v Perpignan (Pool 6)

Who do you think will progress from each group?

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