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Pitchside with Ferris: Clermont v Ulster and Leinster v Lyon

| 10.01.2020

Ospreys v Saracens, Saturday, 13:00

There has been a lot of talk in the media about Saracens off the pitch the past couple of months.

Having heard the news of George Kruis possibly being on his way out and Liam Williams leaving at the end of the season to head back to Scarlets, it really does seem that Saracens are a club going through change.

Saracens players and coaching staff will want the rugby public to be talking about their performances on the field, so I can envisage a huge team effort that will result in a big win. A statement win.

The Ospreys have been in a slum the past two months, and having been beaten by Dragons last weekend in the local derby they find themselves is a bad spot.

Having Alun Wyn Jones (if he is fit) coming back in for them will be a benefit. However, they need more than one or two key players coming back for them to get a result against the reigning European Champions.

Prediction: I can only see this game ending one way and that is a resounding Saracens win of around 20 points.

Clermont v Ulster, Saturday, 13:00

If there is one surprise in the European Champions Cup this weekend, I think it could be this game!

Clermont got beaten last weekend against Racing 92, 27 points to 19. Whereas Ulster had a convincing win against Munster, 38 points to 17. I feel the momentum is on Ulster’s side with their big game players turning up week in week out.

They also have Jordi Murphy and Marcell Coetzee coming back into the starting line-up, and with John Cooney, Stuart McCloskey and a few others playing out of their skin, they could spring a surprise in France.

I recently visited the team and they are making the trip over to Stade Marcel-Michelin with the mindset of wanting to enjoy themselves and go out and take the game to Clermont.

I can’t see them playing in a cagey ‘stay in the game for as long as possible’ way and try nick it at the end game. They are going to go out and play some rugby, just like they have been doing over the last couple of months.

When it comes to Clermont, they have some great guys coming back into their team like Lapandry and Morgan Parra. Then you have guys like Raka on the wing who is fantastic and can be a very dangerous player to encounter!

Prediction: My prediction for this game would be to go with the Handicap for Ulster +8, this being my tip for the weekend!

Connacht v Toulouse, Saturday, 15:15

This is a tough one to call. I was there in 2016 when Connacht won 23-21, it was a game of David vs Goliath… and of course David came out victorious once again.

The Toulouse team were huge and scrumming/mauling Connacht off the pitch. Bundee Aki was key to Connacht winning that game and guess who is back this weekend?

The man himself, Bundee Aki! They also have Jack Carty, Jerrad Butler and Colby Fainga’a who will all add something to the squad in their own ways.

Can Connacht beat Toulouse? Yes, of course they can. But do I think they are going to win this game? No… Unfortunately, not.

Prediction: Toulouse this season have been a dangerous animal with Cheslin Kolbe, Romain Ntamack and Yoann Huget on their side. For me, it is going to be a sneaky win for Toulouse.

Gloucester v Montpellier, Saturday, 17:30

This game is a bit of a dead rubber at the moment unfortunately. With the way the tables have worked out, Toulouse are on 18 points and are stretching ahead.

So, even if both Montpellier and Gloucester won their remaining two games, it looks highly unlikely they will progress into the Quarter Final.

I can see this game being more about pride for both sides. They may put out weakened sides so Gloucester can concentrate on the Gallagher Premiership and Montpellier on the Top 14.

So, this could make for quite an entertaining match if both teams have got nothing to lose and want to allow for some younger guys to express themselves.

Prediction: Looking at both teams and their past performances, I am going to go with a convincing Gloucester win in this game. I don’t think Montpellier have got it in them to go to Kingsholm and get a victory.

Expect a lively contest with one of the home teams’ wingers getting in for the first score. Gloucester by 10-15 points.  

Leinster v Lyon, Sunday, 13:00

What advice would I give Lyon heading into this game? Try and keep the score line below 60 points!

With how Lyon lost their last game against Bennetton, I think they are out. The cards had been stacked in their favour to get a good result, but they faded, and so did their European hopes after the final whistle.

Lyon are going OK in the Top 14 being close to the top of the table and I can see this being their focus of wanting to maintain that position and sending a weakened side over to the RDS this weekend to play Leinster.

Leinster have guys like Henshaw, Lowe, Ringrose, Larmour and Kearney who are all fit and rearing to go! It has been a while since we last saw a fully loaded Leinster team take the pitch.

I think this is the time Leo Cullen is going to unleash his best 15 men, except for Johnny Sexton of course who is still out injured.

Prediction: There is a high Handicap on this game of 30 points. If Leinster work on restricting Lyon I can see Leinster beating the Handicap in this game! They are racking up points for fun in the Pro 14.

Racing 92 v Munster, Sunday, 15:15

I have a feeling Simon Zebo and Donnacha Ryan, two former Munster men, will be starting against their old team this weekend. Zebo played last weekend against Clermont for their big win and he will probably start again at fullback.

I’m sure he can’t wait for kick off… Finn Russell will also be starting this game and he was the one who broke some hearts in Limerick getting the try under the posts that gives Racing 92 a foothold in this group.

Russell is central to everything Racing 92 do in a positive manner. He can be hot and cold but when he is hot, he is extremely good and dangerous. They also have Virimi Vakatawa who is a beast in the mid field.

And with big Chris Farrell possibly coming back after been rested for the last couple of weeks due to the IRFU protocol, he will have his hands full having to deal with Vakatawa in the centre.

This is Munster’s European season and if they lose, they are out, if they win, they are back in it. However, I just can’t see them getting a win out of this game.

Having Jean Kleyn, CJ Stander, Mike Haley and Chris Farrell who should all be in their starting line-up, they will be much stronger than they were in Belfast. But then again, they are taking out Joey Carbery who is out injured now for a couple of months…

Prediction: I have a feeling Racing 92 are going to beat the Handicap of 10 points and sink Munster’s European ambitions this season.

My Five-Fold ACCA for this weekend:

Racing 92 v Munster: Racing 92 win
Leinster v Lyon: Leinster win
Ospreys v Saracen: Saracens win
Northampton vs Benetton: Northampton win
Gloucester v Montpellier: Gloucester win

Stephen

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Author

Stephen Ferris

After a fine backrow career with Ulster and Ireland, Stephen Ferris will be sharing his thoughts on all the big rugby talking points here on Ladbrokes News, including the World Cup and Six Nations.