30th November 2017
It’s The Small Victories That Count.
It certainly wasn’t the all-conquering weekend I was hoping for but I’ll take my 1/2 a unit profit courtesy of London Irish. While I nailed the Irish versus Wasps game on the head, I cannot say the same about my Top 14 tip as Montpellier were absolutely hammered by a resurgent Racing Metro side. So bad was the Montpellier performance, that I closed the stream at half-time and decided to watch the highlights of the Dubai Grand Prix Qualifying sessions, which I presume were a lot more entertaining than the second half of the aforementioned rugby game.
News from the North
Scots Talisman Off to the Races in France
Scotland international, Finn Russel, has inked a deal with French glamour side Racing Metro which will see the blonde pivot ply his trade with the French club come the start of the next European domestic season. The Bridge of Allan native has been in sensational form for the ‘Scots this year and has seen his stock rise to exponential levels. He will replace former World Rugby Player of The Year, Dan Carter, who is set to link up with the Kobelco Steelers at the close of the Top 14 season.
This is a really smart move from Racing as Russel is one of the top fly-halves in the game. It also means the French side have two solid options at ten with former Sharks skipper Patrick Lambie also on their books. While it’s great news for Racing, it’s a bit depressing for rugby fans, particularly those who don a bit of Tartan, as another top talent has left his country’s domestic scene to go and ply their trade in the more lucrative Top 14.
European Cups Return
Next week will see the return of both the Champions and Challenge Cups, with the two tournaments set to provide two weeks of quality European Rugby action.
Here are the biggest fixtures for Round 3 of each tournament:
Glasgow v Montpellier (Friday 8 December)
Toulon v Bath (Saturday 9 December)
Castres v Racing (Saturday 9 December)
La Rochelle v Wasps (Sunday 10 December)
Saracens v Clermont (Sunday 10 December)
Exeter v Leinster (Sunday 10 December)
Toulouse v Lyon (Thursday 7 December)
Stade v Krasny Yar (Friday 8 December)
Zebre v Gloucester (Saturday 9 December)
Newcastle v Bordeaux (Saturday 9 December)
Brive v Connacht (Saturday 9 December)
This Week’s Tips
This is generally a great time of the year to punt on European rugby as the looming Champions and Challenge Cup fixtures tend to get coaches tinkering with their teams a week prior to the two aforementioned tournaments restarting. As such, the ‘books often have a hard time pricing up domestic games.
Gloucester v London Irish (Aviva Premiership)
Tip: Gloucester (-13.5) 9/10
Irish did me a solid last weekend but I won’t be banking on them to do the same this time around as they face a red-hot Gloucester side. The hosts for this weekend trounced Newcastle last week running out 7-29 victors at Kingston Park. Irish, also managed a decent result going down by a narrow four-point margin to Wasps.
My reasoning behind tipping Gloucester to clear the ‘cap is Irish’s away form. The recently promoted side has suffered some heavy defeats on the road this term going down 44-13 to Saracens at the Allianz, 29-17 to the Falcons at Kingston Park, 36-7 to the Sale Sharks at the AJ Bell and 37-7 to Exeter at Sandy Park. That’s not a healthy away record and I suspect it will be made even wore this coming weekend.
Game: Toulon v Lyon (Top 14)
Tip: Lyon (+7.5)
Units: 3 1/2
This is a battle between two of the Top 14’s most out of form sides with both teams heading into this one off the back of three consecutive losses. Lyon, who got their season off to a sensational start, have been handed a rather big plus line here considering how pathetic Toulon have been. The hosts for this weekend’s affair shot themselves in the foot again last weekend as they let a narrow lead slip, to go down, in the dying moments, to a really hit and miss Castres outfit.
Lyon may be enduring a horrid time of it of late but they’re still a plucky side who will no doubt frustrate a Toulon side that has failed to galvanise.