Champions Cup Rugby: No favours in store for Munster or Ulster
The decision to replace the Heineken Cup with the European Rugby Champions Cup was always likely to have a negative impact on Irish sides, with two of the three provinces in the new competition looking more favourites to crash out at the Pool Stage.
Extra demands placed on the provinces since the Pro12 became a truly competitive qualifying zone are clearly taking their toll.
Leinster seem to have got away with two poor performances against Harlequins by beating Conor O’Shea’s men unconvincingly at home, but their countrymen need much more luck from here on out.
It’s not all doom and gloom yet for two-time Heineken Cup winners and four-time finalists Munster, who won their first two Pool 1 games away to Sale and at home to Saracens before going down to their first ever defeat to a French side at Thomand Park last weekend.
They face Clermont, who ran out 16-9 winners in Limerick, and considering their near-impregnable record at Marcel Michelin (two losses in five years), it would be imprudent to get behind anything but victory for the hosts.
Munster love an away ‘miracle’ in Europe, having edged past sides on the road on numerous occasions over the years, including Perpignan almost exactly 12 months ago, but this one will have to wait for the trip to Sarries.
Having lost their first two Pool 2 matches at home to Toulon and on the road at Leicester, Ulster’s 24-9 win at Scarlets last time out just about keeps them in the running to realistically qualify for the knockouts, but anybody expecting a similar result in Llanelli should be cautioned.
Wayne Pivac’s men have won five of their seven domestic and European games at Parc y Scarlets this term, with a sole loss coming from English champions Northampton in the LV Cup.
Their only other failure was a 32-32 draw with Ulster, who have won just one of their four road fixtures since and lost to Italian side Zebre in September, so expect the points to stay in Wales.
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