France To Dominate In Their Final Heineken Cup Bow? Betting Preview
When the 19th Heineken Cup gets underway on Friday, it could mark the beginning of the end of rugby's greatest club competition as French and English clubs put increased pressure on other Nations to join them in their breakaway Rugby Champions Cup venture next season.
Ever since its maiden season in 1995, the Heineken Cup has been one of the most prestigious and eagerly anticipated competitions in world rugby so there is no doubt that if this does turn out to be its final bow, it will surely prove to be as gripping as ever as teams strive towards lifting the trophy at the Millennium Stadium in May.
To celebrate the big kick-off, we're offering you a wide range of pre-match and in-play markets on all games throughout the competition as well as enhanced trycasts over a great selection of those matches, starting with Friday nights clash between Ulster and Aviva Champions Leicester in Pool 5.
We make Toulon favourites to retain their crown at 7/2 but will face tricky opposition in Glasgow, Exeter & Cardiff in Pool Two which are by no means easy games. French rivals Clermont (9/2) ran them close in the final last year and you can get 4/6 on a club from France to win the tournament outright with an English club at 11/4.
Leinster struggled in the competition last year after a successful period of reaching three finals in four attempts the Challenge Cup winners will feel they have a point to prove this year and are favs to win their Pool at 8/11.
The Saints have heavily invested this year with Wales & Lions winner George North (25/1 Top Try scorer)the pick of the bunch and have started their Aviva campaign well and we make them 5/2 to win the group.
Prediction: Leinster to use their experience to win the group, Northampton a good shout for one of the best runners-up
The pre-tournament favourites Toulon are the clear favourites to win their group at 1/6 but after winning all their games in the PRO12 this year, I make Glasgow the dark-horses to shock the French club and win this group at 11/2. They're long shots to lift the trophy at 33/1.
Toulon's Morgan Parra finished as top points scorer last season and he's joint top along with teammate Jonny Wilkinson at 3/1 to repeat that feat this year.
Cardiff obviously boast Lions captain Sam Warburton in their ranks along with fellow Welshman Leigh Halfpenny but they will need to be consistent if they are to have any hope of qualifying from Pool 2, which they have not been so far this season. We make them 25/1 outsiders with the Chiefs shorter at 18/1 to win the group.
Prediction: Toulon but Glasgow could surprise us
This group looks as if it will be a straight fight between Saracens (8/11) and Toulouse (EVS) for top spot with the runners-up probably qualifying as one of the best second placed teams. You can back Saracens to lift the trophy at 6/1 and Toulouse 8/1. Zebre & Connacht have only conjured up 2 wins between them so far in the PRO12 and to perform against Europe's elite will prove a big ask.
Last season's 16-15 defeat to rivals Toulon will have hurt and despite being in one of the most difficult of groups, Clermont favourites to progress at 1/2 and 9/2 to go all the way this year. The French outfit are currently on a 64 match unbeaten run at home and their Fiji winger Napolioni Nalaga is our favourite for top try scorer at 8/1 Racing Metro and Harlequins will both look to use this European campaign as a welcomed distraction from their poor early season form but both should have too much for the Scarlets and likely to fight it out for one of the runners-up spots.
For me this is the most difficult group to call. We make the Tigers slight favs at 21/20 but are away to a solid Ulster team (11/8 to win Pool 5) in the opening game and an early defeat could affect their confidence. Montpellier at 9/2 looks an interesting bet.
Prediction: Tigers or Montpellier
Munster are our favourites to progress from Pool Six at 5/6 and are definitely strong enough to progress, but the Perpignan look a good bet at 9/4 as the French clubs look to dominate this year. Gloucester and Edinburgh have won just 3 games between them this season.
Prediction: Munster or Perpignan
In what could sadly turn out to be the last season that all Nations take part in this competition, William Hill will be here to offer you great prices on a wide selection of markets including our enhanced trycasts on the best televised games. Click on the links below for our full range of markets at the HOME of Betting.