After hoovering up the last two Heineken Cups through Jonny Wilkinson-inspired Toulon, French sides have parked their tanks on the pool stages of that tournament’s successor, the Champions Cup.
Only Castres and Montpellier are letting the side down, with Clermont, Toulon, Toulouse and Racing Metro currently topping their respective piles ahead of the last round of fixtures before the quarter finals.
If they all win and Leinster don’t then France’s big four will finish the pool stage as the last-eight’s top seeds, ensuring home fixtures against a selection from Saracens, Wasps, Leinster, Harlequins, Leicester, Bath, Glasgow and Northampton.
Only the latter holds a favourite’s chance of overhauling their current pool leaders, as George North and co host Racing at Franklin’s Gardens with both sides locked on 19 points.
Northampton are by far the shortest-priced Aviva Premiership team left in the competition at 4/1.
Saracens could still top their group, but it will take an unforeseeable effort from Mark McCall’s side to win at Parc des Sports Marcel Michelin, where Clermont have lost once since their ridiculous 77-game unbeaten run at home ended last May.
A Sarries loss will likely lead to a quarter-final clash against Saints in the East Midlands, if Jim Mallinder’s men dispense with Racing.
Northampton have streaked away from last year’s double runners-up this term, with Saracens nine points and two places behind the Premiership-leading English champions, who have won seven of their eight home fixtures in all competitions this season.
The north Londoners failed to hoist the Heineken Cup aloft during its 19-year history, and they look about right at 12/1 to take the new trophy this May, while neither Bath, Wasps nor Leicester make much appeal at 14/1, 25/1 and 100/1 considering the hands they’ve been dealt.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.
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