Ahead of the action in the European Champions Cup, we take a look at the best bets from two of the big games taking place this weekend.
Northampton Saints v Leinster
The Premiership league leaders take on the current best side in the PRO14 when the Saints host Leinster in a mouthwatering clash at Franklin’s Gardens.
They are also two experienced campaigners in Europe after lifting the biggest club prize on the continent five times between them. However, four of those have been won by the Irish province in the past decade and they are favourites at 1/2 with various companies going into this contest.
Although Northampton claimed the Heineken Cup in 2000, the Midlanders don’t have quite the same pedigree on the continent and endured a gradual downturn under previous boss Jim Mallinder.
New Zealander Chris Boyd eventually replaced Mallinder and he has revitalised the club. They play a vibrant brand of rugby and that has seen them become play-off contenders in England’s top-tier once again.
It could therefore be a challenge for Leo Cullen’s men heading to the Saints but experience counts for a lot in Europe, while their set-piece should be significantly stronger. It was an area where Lyon put Northampton under pressure and there is a concern for Boyd that Leinster will simply suffocate the hosts on Saturday.
As a result, they are seen as outsiders at 11/5 with William Hill and it is hard to argue. The four-time champions have yet to taste defeat this season after winning nine games in a row and are among the strongest teams in Europe.
In fact, the last two times the Irishmen have visited Franklin’s Gardens – in 2013 and 2016 – they have secured comfortable 40-7 and 37-10 victories and they are 27/10 (Unibet) to win by 13 points or more.
Munster v Saracens
Munster will look to improve their Champions Cup prospects when they take on Saracens at Thomond Park on Saturday. The Irish province were fortunate to escape with a draw in their Round Two clash against Racing 92 and a defeat at home Saracens could well be catastrophic.
The pool was coined the ‘Group of Death’ after three giants of the European game were drawn together, but it opened up for the Irish province following the Parisians’ poor domestic form and Sarries’ salary cap troubles.
It seems, however, that Johann van Graan’s men are themselves not quite at their best and this will be a test of their capabilities, despite the visitors’ team selection. Of course, focus is elsewhere for the visitors, who are desperate to eradicate their Premiership points deduction as quickly as possible, but they have rested many of their big England stars.
The likes of Owen Farrell, Jamie George, Elliot Daly and the Vunipola brothers are all out and, as a result, they have gone out to 12/5 at Bet365 and Betway. Munster are duly heavy favourites at 4/9 (Ladbrokes and Coral) to repeat what they did in 2014 and beat Saracens at Thomond Park.
Saracens do have a good recent record versus the Munstermen but, without some of their key internationals, it should be a more comfortable evening for the home side. Providing they start well and dominate, Van Graan’s charges are 9/4 with Bet Victor to win by 15 points or more.