Heineken Cup: Three things to watch
If you are a glass half-full person, there is a chance all four Irish provinces could win. On the other hand it could go badly wrong and one may even be facing elimination.
Here are three things to watch for during this weekend’s Heineken Cup action.
By Declan Whooley
Can Leinster win at Clermont?
The odds are stacked against the defending champions going to France and coming away with a win. The home side are looking for their 51st consecutive win at the Marcel Michelin and revenge will be plentiful supply after their narrow defeat in last year’s semi-final.
Joe Schmidt has had to contend with a huge number of injuries this season and their form in the Rabo has been good, if not outstanding. Ian Madigan and Fergus McFadden are on song at the moment, but Leinster will need a 20 man effort to have any chance.
They will be up against it on Sunday evening and a losing bonus point would not be the worst scenario for the men in blue.
Ulster’s toughest test of the season?
Ulster are arguably the form team in Europe at the moment and Mark Anscombe could hardly have believed if he was told that his new team would still be undefeated a week into December.
Franklin’s Gardens will prove to be the sternest test of their credentials so far, with the home side two pints off the top in England and hot on their heels in Pool 4.
The Ulster back-line looks incredibly potent and with John Afoa and Rory Best back in the front-row, they will fancy their chances of extending the remarkable run.
Make or break for Connacht
Ravaged by injuries, Eric Elwood has been forced to pick an inexperienced team to tackle Biarritz at the Sportsgrounds tonight in Galway. Mike McCarthy returns to the fold, but with Robbie Henshaw, Dave McSharry, Danie Poolman, Jason Harris-Wright and Eoin McKeon all starting, Heineken Cup experience is in short supply.
Having lost at home to Harlequins last time out and a daunting trip to the south of France next week, Connacht supporters are all too aware of the importance of this game.
How Biarritz cope with the elements tonight could be the deciding factor.