HEINEKEN CUP PREVIEW

The teams have been picked and we’re in for an exciting day of rugby tomorrow!
 
LEINSTER V CASTRES
Leinster have made only 1 change to the team that beat Ospreys last week. Martin Moore comes in for the injured Mike Ross at prop. Otherwise the team is the same. Jimmy Gopperth is again at out-half, relegating Ian Madigan to the bench. Madigan didn’t get a run on in last week’s game so he’ll be anxious to see some action.
 
Leinster thumped Castres the last time the teams faced each other, Leinster winning 33-3. That was in the 2008 Heineken. Castres have a poor record in Ireland, having only won 2 out of 21 games here.
 
Castres have fielded a strong side, with only 2 changes to the team that beat Northampton last week. A win is crucial to both sides as the victor will have a strong lead in the pool. The bookies have odds of 13/2 on Castres winning the match. Leinster should win but probably won’t be able to deny Castres a losing point.
 
MUNSTER V GLOUCESTER
Munster have made a lot of changes to the team that were beaten by Edinburgh last weekend, with Peter O’Mahony returning to captain the side. Johne Murphy replaces the injured Simon Zebo.
 
Gloucester have made several changes as well, with only 3 of the players that beat Perpignan last week retained for the match. The 2 teams are quite evenly matched. This is the 5th time Munster have played Gloucester in the pool stages in the Heineken and the win has always gone to the home team in those matches.
 
Munster have an amazing home record in the Heineken. They’ve only ever conceded two home defeats in the history of the Heineken Cup, to Leicester and Munster! A second consecutive Munster loss would severly damage their chances of progressing in the Heineken.  
 
Munster are the bookies favourites with odds of 6/1 on a Gloucester win.
 
ULSTER V MONTPELLIER
Ruan Pienarr returns at scrum-half for Ulster after a very tough Rugby Championship campaign for South Africa. Ulster will be buoyed by their tough win over Leicester last week. Montpellier have 5 points from their win over Zebre last week and a win against Ulster would give them a big lead in the pool.
 
This came will be close with Montpellier fancied but barely.
 
CONNACHT V ZEBRE
Zebre are going for their first win in the Heineken and they have a good chance of achieving this against Connacht. Connacht put in a great performance against Saracens last weekend but that will have taken a lot out of them. Zebre have a very slight advantage.
 
SEXTON IN TROUBLE
The season has barely begun but Jonny Sexton is already talking about suffering from fatigue. Of course, he’s had a very tough time of it. He played right up to the end of last season and then played in nearly all of the Lions matches, including almost all of the 3 tests.
 
He had barely a break before starting with Racing Metro and has played nearly all of their games since then. He has another 3 to go before Ireland’s first international of the season against Samoa. Sexton is the only Racing out-half who’s fit at the moment so the onus is on him to play the games.
 
If he’s already feeling the affects now I don’t know how he’s going to be in the 3 November tests, let alone the 6 Nations! Ian Madigan will likely start against Samoa as Sexton will need to be at his best against Australia and especially New Zealand. We’ll have to see if his move to France was the best idea!

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