By Rugby World reader, Kate Bamber
This weekend looks like an absolute corker for rugby fans.
The Guinness Premiership draws ever closer to its epic finale and the Heineken Cup and Amlin Challenge Cup both roll back into town.
But who will win this weekend? As ever, here are my predictions:
Leinster v Clermont Auvergne
Defending champions Leinster take on Clermont in Friday’s much hyped match. Last weekend, the Dubliners took the prize scalp of Munster in a 16-15 Magners’ League win, which will have helped to build their confidence ahead of this crucial clash. The RDS faithful will also be pleased to see Brian O’Driscoll included in the squad for Friday.
Clermont Auvergne are currently fourth in the French Top 14 but come into the game on the back of a 19-10 loss away to Stade Français. Clermont showed dazzling ability in their backline during the pool stages of the cup, most notably against a strong Leicester Tigers. To win, Leinster have to grab the ball up front and put the squeeze on their visitors.
My prediction: Leinster by 5.
Biarritz v Ospreys
Claiming a win in the south of France in a cup quarter final isn’t an easy ask for the Ospreys. The Magners league side beat rivals the Scarlets 27-19 last weekend, but unlike trailblazing leaders Leinster, the Welsh team are firmly mid-table.
Biarritz are also slap bang in the middle of their respective league, and last weekend they crushed Montauban to the tune of 42-13. In a crunch fixture like this, I think Biarritz will pull it out of the bag again.
My prediction: Biarritz by 10.
Munster v Northampton Saints
Now this should be a game and a half. Northampton are the only English team left in the competition and were in the same pool as two time winners Munster. The men in red beat the Saints 12-9 at Fortress Thomond in January’s pool clash, but Northampton claimed Munster’s scalp in round one in the closely fought 31-27 win at Franklins Gardens.
Both sides are second in their respective leagues, and whilst Munster lost to rivals Leinster last weekend, Northampton only managed to clinch a late win over relegation battlers Leeds. Maybe both teams had one eye on this weekend’s game? For me, this is the one to watch, and I sense an upset on the cards.
My prediction: Northampton to win by 6.
Toulouse v Stade Français
Two giants of the French Top 14 will battle it out in another mouth watering clash. Last weekend, Stade beat Clermont 19-10 whilst Toulouse were 28-23 winners over Racing Metro.
I’ll be honest and admit that I don’t know too much about French club rugby, but I think the home side will have more of an edge. This should be a corker.
My prediction: Toulouse to win by 9.
Over in the Amlin Challenge Cup:
Connacht to beat Bourgoin by 6.
Toulon to beat the Scarlets by 9.
Cardiff to beat Newcastle by 10.
Wasps to beat Gloucester by 4.
And finally, in the Guinness Premiership:
Leeds Carnegie to beat Harlequins by 5.
Saracens to beat Sale by 17.
London Irish to beat Worcester by 13.
But what do you think?