Tyrone Howe: Leinster looking good, while rivals Munster can bounce back
It was exactly as expected — as competitive as any previous match between the two. The Leinster v Munster derby produced a cracker and may once again provide the catalyst for Leinster to march through their Heineken qualifying group.
In contrast, it will be interesting to see whether Munster can bounce back and progress to their now commonplace position in the quarter-finals.
In Pool One their greatest challenge should come from Mark McCall’s Saracens, but given their experience and dogged ability to rise to the occasion, it is hard to bet against Munster qualifying for the knockout stages.
Pool Two pits two Heineken behemoths against each other — Leicester Tigers and Toulouse. The Ospreys are still too fickle to make a sustained dent, while Treviso’s presence makes it possible that Tigers and Toulouse may make it through — home advantage in the quarters may be the bigger prize.
Pool Three should be the easiest to navigate and Harlequins will seek a home quarter-final. Two qualifiers should come from this group and while Connacht will fancy their chances, Biarritz may be the draw that every other qualifying team will want.
Pool Four — don’t be silly.
Pool Five is surely the notorious ‘Pool of Death’ with not just one, but a double repeat of last year’s classic semi-final between Leinster and Clermont.
While the French will seek revenge and Wesley Fofana (pictured) will get the ball down if he gets another chance, I expect Leinster to simply have too much depth and character for their opposition. Exeter, while not making it out of the group, may have a major say with a surprise result or two.
Pool Six? Simple — Toulon with a home quarter-final.
In short, another exciting year for the Irish provinces. Toulouse is a predictable pick which I will avoid, so for me only Harlequins or Toulon could spoil the party, and Ulster have a genuine chance.