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Rupert Wyman 15th Oct 2009 - 10:40

Saints' march will be halted in France

The second week of this year's Heineken Cup action begins with two televised matches on Friday night. The highlight sees the Northampton Saints travel to France to face Top 14 champions Perpignan.

The Saints caused a minor shock last week by defeating Munster at Franklin's Gardens but it looks an even harder task to come away from Aime Giral with a second win.

Nevertheless Northampton will fancy their chances especially as the French champions were humiliated by a 9-8 defeat against Treviso on the opening weekend.

However, it is Perpignan who are the 1/4 favourites to get their campaign up and running with a win. You only have to look at their Top 14 form this season to see why though. They have only won six of their nine matches but five of those have come at home and all three defeats have been on the road.

Perpignan will be so keen to avenge for that loss in Italy that I can't see anything but a home win, for those who think the in-form Saints are in with a chance you will like the look of the 11/4 for an away win.

The main handicap line gives Northampton a eight-point start with both sides at 10/11 in the betting.

If fly-half Shane Geraghty performs like he did against Munster then Saints will be in with a shout and well worth a bet on the handicap. The autumn Test hopeful was instrumental in Northampton's victory scoring 21 of their 31 points plus the two tries he didn't score he created.

It will be important for Perpignan to make sure they are disciplined and don't give the former Exile the kicking opportunities plus they will have to limit the amount of ball he gets from his forwards. If the French side manage to contain Geraghty then it should be a comfortable victory and they can forget all about their first week horror show.

At the same time as the action gets underway in France at 20:00 there is the small matter of an Anglo-Welsh match-up at Edgeley Park as the Sale Sharks host the Cardiff Blues.

A mainly second-string Sale were unsurprisingly trounced 36-17 by French giants Toulouse last weekend while the Cardiff Blues eventually got the job done by 20-6 against an under strength Harlequins side.

One England fly-half will be key to the outcome of the Perpignan v Northampton match and another, the returning Charlie Hodgson will be integral to Sale's hopes of beating Cardiff.

The half-back combination of Hodgson at 10 and Dwayne Peel at 9, if given plenty of ball, should be able to hurt the Cardiff backline.

The Blues are struggling with injuries and their squad has further been hampered by a bout of flu which has struck Xavier Rush, Tom Shanklin and Sam Warburton. Dai Young's side were already short of players but last week's win against Quins came at a cost with Paul Tito, Bradley Davies and Gareth Thomas all injured in the victory.

Cardiff also only have on fit senior lock - Deiniol Jones - so Sale will hope to take advantage of this and dominate the set pieces especially the lineout, but also the scrum with the dominating Andrew Sheridan in the front row.

Sale look well worth a bet at 4/6 to win the match and even look the best bet at 10/11 on the handicap with a two-point deficit to make up.

It promises to be another cracking night of Heineken Cup rugby and with the matches live on Sky Sports you will be able to bet In-Play throughout.



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