Tony Ward expects Leinster to begin their Champions Cup campaign with an RDS victory, but warned Ulster and Munster are playing for losing bonus points. 

RTÉ rugby analyst Ward predicted mixed fortunes for the provinces in "a real real Pro12 v Top 14 weekend", but expects Leo Cullen's outfit to hit the ground running in Pool 4 against Castres later today [3.15pm].

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"I was very impressed with Leinster last weekend [against Munster] and I think that they've more to give," Ward told RTÉ Sport.

"I won't say it's an easy game because there's no such thing in this competition, but certainly when you're starting at home you've got to start with a win and I think Leinster have the artillery to do that.

"The big thing in the early games is to try and get a bonus point somehow if you're travelling. If Leinster can deny Castres that as well it will be the perfect afternoon. I think they'll win."

Reigning Pro12 champions Connacht kick off with a mouthwatering collision later in the afternoon as Toulouse come to town for a Pool 2 blockbuster [5.35pm].

Ward described it as a "must-win" encounter for Pat Lam's men, and believes they can just about squeak it.

"It's a huge game. We all remember what Connacht did over in Toulouse a few years ago [a famous 16-14 Heineken Cup upset in 2013] .

"Toulouse aren't quite what they were and yet I saw Pat Lam quoted as rightly saying they're well capable of suffocating Connacht given the type of game Lam likes to play.

"You've just got to win your home games so I do think this is already a must-win territory for Connacht. If they can win this one they'll have momentum. I think Connacht could do it, but it's going to be very very difficult."

Ulster travelled west with a perfect Pro12 start under their belts last week but that very quickly unravelled as they fell to a 30-25 loss at the Sportsground.

They go to Pool 5 rivals Bordeaux-Begles for what's being billed as the Ian Madigan v Paddy Jackson show, but Ward dismissed that notion, and feels Les Kiss's men face an uphill struggle in France.  

"Much has been made of the Paddy Jackson-Iain Madigan battle," he said. "Of course it's about much more than that and which forward unit gets on top to provide the necessary go-forward ball for the 10.

"Even though Ulster underperformed last week [against Connacht] I think what we saw before that in the lead-in to last week's game when they were unbeaten was a better reflection.

"Bordeaux-Begles at home, much the same as Connacht, simply have to win this game. I think they will, but what Ulster will be looking for is that all-important bonus point."

After their derby-day disappointment at the Aviva Stadium last week, Munster travel to Racing 92 for a meeting with one of their favourite sons, Ronan O'Gara.

Ward does not expect it to be a happy reunion for Rassie Erasmus and Co.

"It's the ROG factor! Ronan will have a huge emotional involvement in the game; it must be very difficult for him. Munster were shocking last week.

"I was particularly disappointed with the lack of creativity, given what possession they did have, they didn't look like they were doing an awful lot with the ball.

"That's my biggest concern for them. They're absolute outsiders. Racing are a class act and I think the home side will win. Much like Ulster, Munster will be looking for the bonus point but it's going to be very difficult."