The era of the Heineken Cup is over and the rugby world is now readying itself for the inaugural European Rugby Champions Cup. Our preview continues with a look at Pool 3.
Along with Pool 1, this is the blockbuster pool. The undisputed European champions, Toulon, with their riches take on ever consistent Leicester Tigers, along with the unlucky Ulstermen and Llanelli Scarlets.
Key Player: Bernard Laporte (manager), just make these guys into a team.
Player to Watch: It’s like trying to pick my favourite member of The Saturdays. I always had a thing for Una though, same way I have a thing for Matt Giteau.
Banker? The pool contains two quality sides in the Tigers and Ulster, but Toulon are Toulon; unstoppable.
Bernard Laporte’s side enjoyed European dominance and French dominance. last season and will be looking to do the same again during this campaign. Yes, they have lost Jonny Wilkinson, the best player to ever hold “the pill”in this writer’s opinion. But the new signings of Gorgodze, Claasens, O’Connor and Halfpenny make Toulon the rugby equivalent of Real Madrid.
Tries = Wins + Bonus Points = Home Advantage =Stade Mayol = Unstoppable.
Games in Ravenhill and Welford Road will test the French side but it is hard to see them not topping the group.
Leicester Tigers (3/1)
Key Player: Manu Tuilagi
Player to Watch: Vereniki Goneva (Scores tries for fun).
Leicester always remind this writer of Munster; very hard to beat up front and their home ground (Welford Road) is a fortress. But last year, players such as Ben Youngs dropped out of form leading to a dip in the Tigers’ season.
One cannot see them challenging for the top of the pool simply (maybe foolishly) because their out-half is either Owen Williams or Freddie Burns., who are both inconsistent place kickers.
To beat Toulon and Ulster it is imperative that you take the chances provided and Leicester lack the talent to do so in the 10 channel. However, it should be fun to watch sheer power from Allen, Tuilagi and Goneva on the outside.
Key Player: Ruan Pieenar
Player to Watch: Darren Cave (He wants the Ireland “13” jersey so bad)
Ulster always go ever so close but ultimately fall at the final hurdle. The province have to stop putting their lack of success down to luck and realise they are lacking temperament and a bit more quality in the forwards.
Staff wise it’s been a bit of a drama for the Ulstermen this season, with both Mark Anscombe and David Humphreys leaving the club. However there is no question that on the pitch they will set the high standards to which they performed last year.
They are a joy to watch but once again expect them to inevitably fall short in a passionate performance against Toulon. However, they will still make the Quarter Finals. Their tendency to fall short is a reoccurring theme that this writer doesn’t see ending soon.
Key Player: Aaron Shingler
Player to Watch: Gareth Davies (Pushing for the Welsh scrum-half position)
Parc Y Scarlets is a hard place to go to and win for Pro12 teams, even at the top. However, the three teams above, all with high ambitions, should make ease of the Scarlets as long as they are not complacent.
Welsh club rugby is going through turmoil at the moment and expect this to mirror results in Europe’s elite competition.
2. Ulster (QF Spot)
3. Leicester Tigers
Jonathan Abbott, Pundit Arena.
Read More About: aaron shingler, bernard laporte, darren cave, freddie burns, jonny wilkinson, leicester tigers, leigh halfpenny, manu tuilagi, scarlets rugby, Top Story, toulon rugby, ulster rugby, vereniki goneva