England great mulls over another few days of London clubs in European action and sees wins for former side Wasps, and Harlequins, but not such glad tidings for Saracens and out-of-form London Irish.
RACING METRO 92 v SARACENS
(HEINEKEN CUP, TONIGHT)
Amlin Opta analysis: Sebastien Chabal is Racing’s leading player in Europe this season, accruing the most Amlin Opta Index points, with the most carries for Racing (33) and more metres than any other forward (181) in the Heineken Cup. For Saracens, Schalk Brits has been the star, completing 34 lineout throws – more than any other player in the Heineken Cup – and misplacing just two.
Last week’s clash ended in defeat for Saracens and an amusing post-match interview with Brendan Venter. Unfortunately it doesn’t look like getting any better for him this evening, with Racing Metro seeking another win to keep the pressure on Pool 2 frontrunners Leinster and Clermont Auvergne. I don’t doubt the Frenchmen will win, it’s whether they can get the bonus point.
TOULON v LONDON IRISH
(HEINEKEN CUP, TOMORROW)
Amlin Opta analysis: Toulon overcame London Irish last weekend, in no small part due to Jonny Wilkinson. The England No10 gained 157 Amlin Opta Index kicking points with five out of five successful kicks at goal. In attack, Rudolffe Wulf was the leading player on the pitch, winning 346 points in attack, thanks to a game-high 97 metres gained with the ball in hand and one try.
Poor old London Irish: their terrible run continues even though they’re not playing badly, just lacking a bit of spark. Once they get that win they’ll turn the corner, but Toulon is not a place you want to go to when you’re chasing form. Irish were well beaten last week, with Jonny Wilkinson the principle rapier, and he looks to be nearing his best form. Unfortunately, I can’t see much joy for the Exiles.
WASPS v NEWPORT-GWENT DRAGONS
(HEINEKEN CUP, SUNDAY)
Amlin Opta analysis: Dave Walder has won the most Amlin Opta Index points in the Wasps squad this season with his boot steadying the ship and earning valuable points for the Adams Park outfit. Wayne Evans has led the way for the Dragons, earning more index points than any of his team mates. Only Ruan Pienaar has made more passes this season.
Wasps need to score heavily if they are going to have a chance of winning Pool Six. They won’t have given up on topping the group, and at worst they could qualify as one of the best runners-up. But Toulouse are ahead at the moment and entertain Glasgow, so Wasps could really use a victory. They worked hard to get back into this competition and it would be wrong if they didn’t keep it up now.
CONNACHT v HARLEQUINS
(amlin challenge cup, tonight) Tom Guest has been Quins’ leading performer in Europe this season. He has made 36 carries, the second most in the competition so far, and 181 metres, the most for Quins and also the most by a forward in the competition.
Last week’s win for Harlequins was expected but it promises to be trickier at Connacht, whose ground is certainly different to The Stoop. Still, Quins have been to Connacht’s dog track before and I expect them to carry on their good form with a win, albeit probably a tight one.
Lawrence Dallaglio, Amlin rugby ambassador, used the new Amlin Opta Index player performance analysis for this article. The Amlin Opta Index is the first ever player performance comparison analysis in rugby