The final of this season’s Heineken Cup is being played in Dublin which means there is a massive incentive for Irish sides to progress. However, Clermont and Toulon are the clear favourites as the Cup appears to be destined to be won by a French side this season.
France are less than 1/2 to be the winning nationality of the Heineken Cup this season. Despite the match being played in Ireland an all-French final looks likely. Leinster are the current holders but have been eliminated so cannot win the Heineken Cup for the fourth time in the last five years.
Irish sides have won five of the last seven Heineken Cups with Leinster and Munster winning three times and twice respectively. The last French winners were Toulouse in the 2009/10 season when the final was played in Paris. The last English winners were Wasps in 2007, in a year that Twickenham staged the final.
For many the highlight of the rugby union season is the Six Nations tournament contested by the leading European international sides. This year’s renewal begins at the weekend and all the matches will be shown live on television.
Fixtures are now scheduled to begin at different times during an international weekend so every match is shown live. In the days of the Five Nations matches were played at the same time but the advent of dedicated sports channels means the games have to fit in with their schedules.
England are the marginal favourites to win this year’s tournament. However, the odds compilers may have overreacted to England’s win against New Zealand at Twickenham last autumn. Until that match the new coaching and captaincy regime did not appear to be working.
England had a very poor World Cup in 2011, both on and off the field. Martin Johnson lost his job as Head Coach as the side looked to get results back on track after the disappointing performances in the World Cup.
It may be that the bookmakers have overacted to England’s defeat of New Zealand. Before the match all the relevant form guidelines suggested a comfortable win for the visitors but England defied the odds and upset the form back to record an historic victory.
However, that result aside England have been on a moderate run of form during and after the World Cup. The side finished second in last years Six Nations despite beating Scotland in the Calcutta match and France away from home. The key match was against Wales at Twickenham which England lost 19-12.
Wales won the Grand Slam last season by betting all comers. The side reached the semi-finals of the World Cup in 2011 and were unfortunate to lose to France after their captain, Sam Warburton, was set-off in the first half. Wales looked like potential winners of the tournament but came up just short against France despite the handicap of losing a man.
That semi-final was lost by just one point and Australia beat Wales 21-18 in the match for third place. That tournament showed Wales to be the best side in Europe and they can confirm that status by winning the Six Nations again this year.
Back next Friday