5 Talking Points As The Irish Provinces Return To The Champions Cup
European rugby is back.
Three of the four Irish provinces are in Champions Cup action this weekend, with two of them badly in need of results if they are to secure a quarter final spot.
Leinster are in a comfortable position after securing maximum points from their opening two games,but Munster and Ulster really need wins to keep their chances alive.
Here’s who’s playing who this weekend
Munster vs Leicester, Sat 9th, 7.45pm
Harlequins vs Ulster, Sun 10th, 1.00pm
Exeter vs Leinster, Sun 10th, 5.30pm
And the current pool tables.
As you can see, Leinster can afford to come away with nothing this weekend, while Munster must secure a home win against Leicester to have any chance of progressing. Ulster meanwhile need to come away with something against Quins. Realistically they probably need a win, with La Rochelle racing away as group leaders.
Here are five talking points heading into the weekend.
Les Kiss’ men haven’t exactly been lighting up the PRO14 in recent weeks, while Quins are coming off the back of beating a near full strength Saracens team. Ulster will need to raise their game by several notches this weekend if their to pull off a win at the Stoop. Realistically it’s do or die for Ulster. Their big name players really need to step up this weekend or it’s gonna be another long season for the Ulster faithful.
Just how good are Leinster?
If Leinster manage to come away with a win against Exeter at Sandy Park this weekend, then we really need to start viewing them as serious contenders to go all the way. Exeter are in top form in the Premiership and are formiddable foes at home. If Leinster pull off a win this weekend, you could nearly go a far as calling them favourites for the trophy given Saracens’ current form.
The Munster vs Leicester rivalry
There’s something about Munster and Leicester in Europe. A rivalry that stems back as far as 2002 and the infamous ‘hand of Back’, these two sides just love playing each other. Leicester are the only side to beat Munster at home in Europe twice, and while Munster got redemption last season with a 38-0 win, the Tigers are a different animal this season. Either way it’s going to be a cracker, and could end up being the tie of the weekend.
The O’Mahony/Stander contract situation
All the talk over the last few days about CJ Stander and Peter O’Mahony has perhaps overshadowed Munster’s European preparations, and expect it to continue. Both players will be out to prove a point and show their worth, while the talk will probably benefit Munster and new boss Johann van Graan, with the attention drawn away from them. Either way there will be a lot to talk about regarding the pair after this weekend.
This could be the biggest weekend of the season for Munster and Ulster.
We’ve already touched on this, but it’s huge when you think about it. Munster and Ulster could be done and dusted after this weekend if results don’t go their way. Realistically both teams need to win or face a huge uphill task to qualify. This weekend could make or break the provinces in Europe this season. Fingers bloody crossed lads.