Round One all went to plan with the obvious exception, but the raft of match cancellations and the uncertainty of how they will be decided adds an extra level of mystery to what is going on in Round 2 (get well soon to all the players and staff affected).
With one loss under our belt, but with a welcome bonus point, the ideal scenario is to have as few teams as possible on three wins, thus making it likely that Connacht would qualify if they win their remaining games and even open up the possibility that on a very miraculous day, they could pox into the quarter-finals with only two wins.
Racing look likely candidates for a couple of wins against Quins, and that may not be a bad thing, as it could mean that they are safely qualified before the trip to the Sportsground, and with two-legged quarter-finals, the incentive to finish higher up the table is reduced and so consequently might be their motivation. Try bonus points would help on that front. We got them off to a good start by skillfully conceding four tries in Paris.
So that’s one team on three wins at least. After that, Clermont look odds on to repeat their win over Bristol on the last weekend and Munster may well do the same away to Quins (the latter being severely demotivated by a double dose of Racing and thinking ahead to the derby against Wasps the following week), thus a divvying up up the spoils in the two Munster v Clermont games would be the worst outcome as it would leave them both on three wins, so it is better all round if the same team wins both games. Clermont seem more likely to do the double you would think. On the other hand, Thomond, while not the fortress of old, is still a God-awful place to go if it’s points you’re after. I’m plumping for Munster on the grounds that if they can win in the Michelin, they can finish the job in Limerick. If they lose, I’ll just switch jerseys next round.
The exact same scenario would have applied to the Exeter/Toulouse fixtures. Both look likely winners in Round 4 so we want both results to go the same way, so I would have preferred an Exeter away win. Word around the campfire though is that Toulouse will be awarded the game, since it was Exeter who caused the cancellation. In that case just shout for Toulouse in Round 3.
The situation with Glasgow v Lyon is less clear cut. That could be called a draw since it’s neither team’s doing. I’d have liked a Glasgow win there. They don’t look like QF contenders and any points Lyon drop is a good thing looking at their fixture list.
Gloucester and Ulster are probably best sharing the points, just in case one of them pulls an upset in Round 4, so shout for the home team in each case.
With those results, Toulouse and Munster (or Clermont) would end up with four wins, Racing with three, leaving the outside chance of someone pipping Lyon to fourth spot. Looking at Bordeaux’s fixture list, they could very well end up top of the heap on the other side, which wouldn’t be a bad outcome to the pool stage adventures.
In all cases, the less bonus points, the better, except for Racing, who we’d like to get comfortable, and of course Connacht, for whom a try bonus against Bristol would really really help, but a win is of course essential …
Desired results (in bold):
Gloucester v Ulster
Clermont v Munster
Harlequins v Racing 92 (TBP)