FloRugby’s coverage of the Heineken Champions Cup comes back for fans in the Middle East and North Africa, and as the other European leagues take a break, we want to look at who’s hot, and who’s not.
Top 14 Hot
Bordeaux-Begles … sort of. In the last five weeks of competition Bordeaux-Begles has improved from 4-4-1 to 8-5-1. It’s been a huge run for the club, but … in the standings the improvement has only been one place, from 8th to 7th.
This is because that one loss came this past week, when Pau ended its slide despite playing without former All Blacks star and now coach Carl Hayman (suspended after an altercation with players).
Bordeaux-Begles played shorthanded for over 70 minutes after Georgian back-rower Beka Gorgadze was sent off. If that hadn’t happened, we might have been looking at an even hotter Bordeaux club.
Clermont. OK big surprise. Clermont was in 1st place five weeks ago at 6-2-1, but since then the club has gone 4-0-1, and beat the blazing hot La Rochelle (seven wins in a row until Saturday).
"We knew that La Rochelle would arrive with very good intentions and it was important to test ourselves," said Clermont coach Franck Azema.
"Our forwards had a great start. We gave away just three penalties -- in terms of discipline, that's a very high level. It's good way to start 2019."
Top 14 Not
Toulon. The big spender in French rugby is not getting full value for money, and has crashed to 5-9.
Racing 92. So they won this past weekend, but against Toulon, and you know that’s not such a big thing to crow about anymore. After Week 10, Racing was 7-3 and in 2nd place. Now? They’re 9-5 and looking over their shoulder and in danger of missing the playoffs.
Guinness PRO14 Hot
Benetton. Italia for the win. Four wins in a row, in fact, have bumped Benetton from 3-6 to 7-6 and in 3rd place in Conference B (and tied in points with 2nd-place Edinburgh). Yes some of the opposition has been relatively weak. Yes three of the victories were by less than a try. So what? Benetton beat Conference A leaders Glasgow, which dumped the Warriors out of the top spot. They are for real.
Ospreys. Put aside a rather wonky loss to the Dragons, the Ospreys have been on the rise. Since getting smacked around by Leinster, the Swansea club has gone 3-1 and is now 8-5 and solidly in a playoff spot.
Guinness PRO14 Not
Glasgow. The Warriors were in command in Conference A and now Munster has pushed them out of 1st. It’s been three straight losses for Glasgow now.
Heineken Champions Cup Hot
Toulouse. Almost every game in Europe has been a close one for Stade Toulousain, but the French club keeps winning them.
Saracens. In the Premiership Sarries were shocked somewhat by Sale this past weekend and lost to Exeter in December, but overall sit 14-2 in Premiership and Heineken Cup games. That’s pretty warm. Saracens should sew up their pool this week.