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Crucial fixtures for Irish teams as Heineken Cup race hots up

By Frank Quinn
ROUNDS 3 and 4 of this season’s Heineken Champions Cup get underway with the back to back games commencing on Friday. It will be a turning point in the tournament with rounds 5/6 due to take place in January 2020.
As they stand now two Irish clubs, Leinster and Ulster, two French clubs, RacingMetro and Toulouse and England’s Exeter stand on top of the five pools. La Rochelle and Ospreys have no points. At the end of these two rounds we will have a clearer picture of the potential qualifiers to make the final eight for the knockout stages.
Fixtures for Round 3: In pool 1:- Leinster won at the weekend beating Glasgow at Scotstoun and travel to Northampton who beat Leicester Tigers. Both clubs top the tables in their respective tournaments, the difference being that Leinster has won 7/7 and Northampton 4/5. Both clubs have beaten Lyon (at the head of French Top14), in the previous rounds. It sounds a tough game and it will be tough with only one winner and it has to be Leinster. Leinster 4/9 Northampton 15/8.
In pool 3: Ulster top the table and they are at home to Harlequins. Ulster beat Scarlets 29-5 last weekend and have won 5/7. they are proving difficult to beat whereas Harlequins’ start is not impressive with 2 wins from 5 in the premiership and 1 win from 2 in the Heineken. Winner Ulster 1/4, ‘Quins 11/4. In pool 4: Munster, beaten at weekend by Edinburgh, is second in the table with equal points to Racing 92 after the draw at Thomond Park. Munster’s record is 5/7 and they top their conference in the Pro14. Saracens, the holders and three time winners, are the visitors to Thomond Park in round 3 and tough visitors they may well prove to be. They have won 4/5 in the premiership and lost one game away to Racing 92 in the Heineken. This is match of the round. They do have some off-field difficulties with the premiership, but they seem to be back to normal and are two handfuls for any European team. Thomond Park is increasing capacity to almost 27,000 for this game. Betting: Saracens 10/11 – Munster 10/11. Even the bookies can’t separate them!
In pool 5: Connacht beat Kings 24/12 at weekend, lie second to Toulouse and second in the PRO14 winning 5/7 games. They travel to Gloucester in round 3 with confidence having beaten Montpelier and have a good record this season. Gloucester are not impressive in the premiership with 2/5 wins. This away win for Connacht will consolidate their hopes of making the knockout stages. The betting differs: Connacht 15/8 Gloucester 4/9
In pool 2: Exeter, beat Wasps 38-3 at weekend, is having it all their own way with 10 points from the two rounds and they play Sale away. They lie 3rd and 5th respectively in the premiership. Verdict: Exeter at 4/6 and Sale are 13/10.

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