Covid-19 is dominating the sporting landscape again. The rules put in place by French authorities has played havoc with the schedule for this weekend, with that – plus a couple of outbreaks at clubs – meaning that just five of the expected 12 matches in the Champions Cup will be played over the weekend. Five of the other matches will be played at a later date, while Montpellier and Racing 92 had already been awarded wins.
Here is a look at four of the remaining matches.
Ulster VS Northampton – Kingspan Arena, Belfast
There are a couple of big returns in this one as Northampton welcomes back the influential Courtney Lawes and captain Iain Henderson returns for Ulster. Lawes will be starting in the back row on the flank, while Henderson slots in at lock alongside Alan O’Connor as one of three changes to the Irish side from the starting XV that was impressive in beating Clermont a week ago. Northampton will, however, be without starting 10 Dan Biggar due to a thigh problem. Geoge Furbank shifts from fullback to fly-half, with Ahsee Tuala wearing the 15 jumper. Ulster rarely loses at home. I like them to win but the Saints to cover at +14.5 paying 8/10 with BetXchange.
Glasgow VS Exeter – Scotstoun Stadium, Glasgow
Glasgow makes one change from the team that gave La Rochelle all it could handle last time out. Prop Jamie Bhatti moves into the starting XV for this clash that seems to get thrown up often in the pool stages. One thing to watch will be the battle of the Gray brothers, with Richie of Glasgow playing against brother Jonny of Exeter for the first time in their professional careers. Stuart Hogg starts at 15 for the Chiefs against his old club. Exeter has been hit harder than most by the law changes, but they will have too much here and win with a comfortable cover at -8.5 with BetXchange.
Harlequins VS Cardiff – Twickenham Stoop, London
This one could get ugly. Cardiff has 42 players out through a mix of quarantine, injury, and suspension. Last week they called a mixture of semi-pros from around the region and academy players to fulfill their fixture against Toulouse. This week will be the same as they face a full-strength ‘Quins team that welcomes back the likes of Joe Marchant and Jack Kenningham as two of four changes from their impressive win at Castres. The line here is 32.5 and while I expect ‘Quins to win by closer to 45 or 50 I probably wouldn’t touch it.
Leicester Tigers VS Connacht – Welford Road, Leicester
Steve Borthwick has again chosen to rotate his squad as the Tigers maintained their 100% start to the season on the road in Bordeaux last weekend. Both George Ford and Ellis Genge – who both announced plans to leave Welford Road at the end of the season – are out of the 23, with Freddie Burns at fly-half and Nephi Leatigaga at loosehead. Connacht was dominant in their opening-round win at home to Stade Francais, but this is a different challenge. I like Leicester to win and cover the -8.5 points.