Wasps v Leinster (Tonight 8pm)
WASPS ARE NOT the behemoths of European rugby the used to be but Leinster have massive injury problems.
Joe Schmidt must be wondering who to have at 13 this weekend [Fergus McFadden was selected] because they are dropping like flies out there. It’s the curse of the No.13 jersey this season and it has claimed some pretty big names.
Tom Varnell and Christian Wade have scored over 50% of Wasps tries this season so it will be obvious who Schmidt will be trying to shut down. I expect Leinster to get through as they will have a lot of their big names involved, like Jamie Heaslip and Cian Healy, and they are never down for too long.
Saracens v Ulster (Saturday 6:30pm)
Ulster will have the best chance of the two Irish sides remaining in the Heineken Cup this weekend, albeit against a strong Saracens side. I was over at a Sarries testimonial for Hugh Vyvyan recently and they are looking at the Heineken Cup as a genuine target.
They have aspirations of flying the flag for English like Wasps and Leicester did in the past and building a huge squad that can win doubles. They’ve built a very strong side, with Owen Farrell and Chris Ashton the star names but with a workmanlike team around them. They have taken some criticism for their style of play in recent years but they are very much a win at all costs side.
Chris Ashton and Owen Farrell josh Harlequins scrumhalf Danny Care. (David Davies/PA Wire.)
We’ve seen Farrell, against Munster at Thomond Park, getting his kicking game horribly wrong but, more often than not, he is close to 100%. He certainly can be got at and Ulster will need to target him.
Ulster’s hopes are helped by having Johann Muller and Jared Payne back but Ruan Pienaar is the lynchpin of the team and his teammates will look to him for inspiration.
Harlequins v Munster (Sunday 2pm)
Conor O’Shea has done an incredible job with ‘Quins. He has turned them around and has them playing a very, very physical game with backs that like to attack.
One thing that has exposed them recently has been three successive defeats in the Aviva Premiership. Exeter Chiefs went to The Stoop with no fear and turned them over.
Both Exeter and Saracens starved them of the ball and they couldn’t come up with a second plan. That was a vulnerability and a soft underbelly that Munster could expose. If they can do that, allied with some direct running, they have a chance.