By William Hill
Last Updated: 15th November 2019
The European Rugby Champions Cup has been the premier European competition in club rugby since its inception and we have seen some fantastic results and stories over the years.
While the club season has started to limited fanfare due to the recent World Cup, this weekend sees the return of elite European rugby. We preview the leading favourites and best bets for this season’s European Rugby Champions Cup.
Always the bridesmaid, never the bride sums up Clermont in this competition. Three times they have been runners-up, but never have they lifted the famous trophy. However, that could change this year.
With a well-balanced forward pack and a star-studded backline which wouldn’t look out of place at Test level, this could be Clermont’s year. While they haven’t started in the Top 14 very well, Les Jaunards are difficult to beat at home and this squad has already experienced European success after beating La Rochelle in the European Rugby Challenge Cup last season.
Clermont are third favourites to win the European Rugby Champions Cup this season at 7/1, but a straightforward group – alongside Bath, Harlequins and Ulster – could see them get a favourable draw for the knockout stages, where their big-name players will have the opportunity to cement their legacies.
Munster have a proud history in this competition, lifting the trophy twice. They have, incredibly, reached 14 semi-finals, but have lost 10, an unwanted record.
With an international level pack, including an incredible back row, marshalled by Ireland’s Peter O’Mahony, Munster play an attritional game, which can turn into points very swiftly with Conor Murray and Joey Carbery marshalling the backline.
Munster also have the additional benefit of being nigh-on invincible at home. Thomond Park is a fortress and they have only lost to three teams at home in 24 years in Europe. Munster, who are in Pool 4 alongside Ospreys, Racing 92 and Saracens, are 16/1 to be tournament winners.
A second team from Pool 4, but not reigning champions Saracens, are the next pick. While Saracens are undoubtedly the team to beat on paper, off-field distractions could be their undoing and Pool 4 is undoubtedly the ‘Pool of Death’. Racing 92, similarly to Clermont, haven’t started in the Top 14 very well, but their squad is impressive and their backline is genuinely world class.
With Maxime Machenaud, Finn Russell, Virimi Vakatawa, Juan Imhoff and Simon Zebo all playing together, they have the ability to outscore every single team in the competition with ease. If they can navigate a difficult group, they will feel they can beat anyone.
While Racing are an outside shot at 20/1, if they can put it all together, they have a real chance this year to lift their first European Rugby Champions Cup.