It seems like only yesterday rugby fans were celebrating all things Gallic as our very own Jonny Wilkinson kicked Toulon to triumph over Clermont in European Cup Final at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin.
Five months on from that victory and it’s somewhat appropriate that the first tip for the 2013-14 campaign revolves around a truly terrific trio featuring three of France’s top teams competing in this year’s tournament.
Back Montpellier, Castres and Racing Metro to win this weekend at odds of around 4/1 and you could be left smiling come the conclusion of the first round of games this Sunday.
Treviso were the whipping boys of Pool 2 last time around, conceding a whopping 167 points in six group encounters en route to recording five losses and a solitary consolation win over the Ospreys in their final game.
They could reprise that role this season, with visitors Montpellier favourites for the win, after claiming victories in two of their last three Heineken Cup matches played on the road.
Montpelier eased through the groups last year, with five wins from six and after a positive start in the Top 14 they look good for victory here.
There’s every reason to back Castres here with the French side boasting formidable home form heading into this game which has seen the team go 11 games unbeaten at the Stade Pierre Antoine.
Northampton will have painful memories of their previous visit to that ground, which came last year, with the Saints slipping to a 21-16 defeat – their second successive away loss to the Gallic team in Europe.
The Saints still have a tendency for self-destruction too, as their last gasp loss to Gloucester demonstrated. If they lose discipline against Castres, they could be put to the guillotine with ease.
Clermont may have reached last year’s final in impressive style, but the season so far has seen the club crash back to reality (the final was still reality – maybe rephrase) in ugly style.
Away form is a particular concern, with Clermont losing four in a row away from Stade Marcel-Michelin in the Top 14 going into this game. By contrast, Racing Metro have been in near-unbeatable form at home, winning five of their last six as hosts.
Racing Metro also have history on their side, having beaten Clermont 12-6 on their previous meeting at Stade Olympique Yves-du-Manoir.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.
Fancy a flutter? Sign up today to claim three £10 free bets when you bet £10