“It’s the most wonderful time of the year”
No, this writer isn’t getting ready for Christmas this early. It’s only mid-November, but it is the beginning of the Champions Cup (Heineken Cup in old money), and so many other sporting competitions are also coming to the boil.
Heading into the first tranche of fixtures – and without the benefit of settled form lines and a bedding in period for returning World Cup stars – speculating on the the spreads of games can be an interesting exercise.
Here are three handicaps for round one fixtures that offer something to the punter, either financially or just conversationally.
Northampton vs Scarlets: Scarlets +12
Twelve points? The Scarlets are getting a dozen points away to a Saints team coming off back-to-back losses to Sale and Saracens. In their last three games, the Llanelli franchise have beaten Munster and the Dragons before a scrappy loss in the RDS. This is the “disrespected team line of the week”.
Leinster vs Wasps: Leinster -8
Admittedly, losing Ben Te’o takes a large threat out of Leinster’s game, however the return of Johnny Sexton for his first home European game is a boost. Leinster boast some form players up front like Mike McCarthy and Jack McGrath, and this should be enough to see off the eight-point advantage given to Wasps.
Ospreys vs Chiefs: Chiefs +1
As close to a straight win/loss proposition as this week throws up, the Swansea men are getting the smallest possible home advantage from the bookies. However Exeter are on form in the Premiership and this writer fancies this as a cheeky outside bet to finish off round one.
Bill Byrne, Pundit Arena