Heineken Champions Cup
Friday: Scarlets v Ulster (Pool 4), Parc y Scarlets, 7.45pm
Scarlets lost their opening two games in the Pool last year and went on to make the semis. They haven’t played as well this year, have had a lot of injuries and have lost Tadhg Beirne to Munster, with John Barclay going back to Scotland. They are not quite as competitive as they were, so there is certainly an opportunity for Ulster.
The difficulty with Ulster, as we have seen, is their away form. They have been so inconsistent, but they’ll have to show up tonight to win this one.
I think they can win. I like the look of their three-quarter line. Will Addison had a great November with Ireland. Henry Speight, Stuart McCloskey and Jacob Stockdale are all capable of scoring. Ultimately, it will come down to the front five – Rory Best and Iain Henderson back in there. Ulster will be competitive and a losing bonus point would not be a bad result for them. They are chasing second place in the Pool; Racing, I think, will top the standings. Scarlets and Ulster will be in a battle for the second spot.
Saturday: Bath v Leinster (Pool 1), The Recreation Ground, 3.15pm
Everybody is focused on Leinster and their quest to defend their crown. They had eight starters in the Ireland side that beat New Zealand so everybody is waiting in the long grass for them.
It’s a game that Leinster have to win given that they lost to Toulouse last time out. But they have so much quality all over the field and while Bath are very good individually, as a collective they have not been performing. It will be a heavy pitch over there, but Leinster can play it anyway. Their front five are outstanding and I’m expecting them to get the win.
Sunday: Munster v Castres (Pool 2), Thomond Park, 1pm
There’s a bit of a buzz around Munster at the moment. I thought the performance of their backline against Edinburgh last week was outstanding. Overall to score eight tries was a highlight but to see Joey Carbery and Conor Murray starting together for the first time has also raised excitement levels. Chris Farrell, on his return from injury, showed well and then you had Andrew Conway and Keith Earls scoring five tries between them.
And so there is now a lot of expectation going into this game.
Castres will be competitive and they are the Top 14 champions. I think they’ll put it up to Munster, but as always in Thomond Park, you’d expect the home side to come out on top.
Saturday: Connacht v Perpignan, The Sportsground, 3pm
Perpignan are not bringing over a full squad and are struggling badly in the Top 14 and have not won a match. In contrast, Connacht had a brilliant fortnight in South Africa – a lot of quality time together – winning both games. I expect Connacht to win reasonably comfortably.
Donal Lenihan was speaking on RTÉ Radio 1's Morning Ireland programme.
Follow Munster v Castres via our liveblog on RTÉ.ie/sport and the News Now app or listen to live commentary with Michael Corcoran and Donal Lenihan on a 2fm Game On special this Sunday (kick-off 1pm)