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Monday, 17 December, 2018

Pool of death to come to life in Dublin and Exeter

Quins and Tigers look set to be outmuscled

Sandy Park has been a fortress for Exeter
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Leinster v Montpellier
Sky Sports Action, 1pm Saturday

Leinster will have happy memories of their last meeting with Montpellier - a 57-3 Dublin mauling at the start of the year - but bookmakers clearly aren't expecting a repeat with the handicap set at just six points.

This is a huge battle in terms of the standings in Pool Three - the so-called pool of death - and Montpellier look geared up for a real crack at the trophy, whereas in the last meeting they threw in the towel as soon as they sensed Leinster were about to inflict a third pool defeat and send them out of the tournament.

Montpellier have lost twice in the Top 14 this season - at Bordeaux when they finished with 14 men and to Stade Francais last weekend when coach Vern Cotter rested All Black fly-half Aaron Cruden among others.

They are the leading scorers in France with 241 points and 32 tries from seven matches and their biggest danger looks to be fearsome Fijian winger Nemani Nadolo - listed at 6ft 5ins and 19st 5lb - who has three tries from six starts this season.

Recent meetings – 2016-17: ­Montpellier 22 Leinster 16, Leinster 57 Montpellier 3; 2011-12: Montpellier 16 Leinster 16, Leinster 25 Montpellier 3.

N Nadolo to score a try
2pts 2-1 bet365

Racing 92 v Leicester
BT Sport 2, 3.15pm Saturday

Racing 92 have proved an enigma since they emerged in Europe's elite in 2010 but their physical should prove too strong for Leicester in Paris.

The French side reached the final of this competition two seasons ago, then finished bottom of their pool with just one win last time.

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But they have a huge pack and real firepower in the backline including the explosive Virimi Vakatawa, playing in the centre, plus Teddy Thomas and evergreen Joe Rokocoko on the wings.

They haven't always combined well as a unit but Leicester don't look to have hit their stride yet and were wasteful when looking completely dominant against London Irish last weekend, beating the second-bottom team in the Premiership by one point.

Recent meetings – 2016-17: Leicester 27 Racing 17; Racing 34 Leicester 3; 2015-16 semi-final: Leicester 16 Racing 19.

Racing -5
3pts 10-11 bet365

Harlequins v La Rochelle
Sky Sports Action, 5.30pm Saturday

La Rochelle, last season's surprise package in the Top 14, make their Champions Cup debut at the Stoop and it's hard to judge from their team how much they are going to put into the competition.

The French side make seven changes to the team that beat Racing at home last week, and while international forwards Uini Atonio and Victor Vito are among those retained, experienced fly-half Brock James gives way to Ryan Lamb.

What looks certain is that Quins will face a mighty test up front - France international Atonio is a man-mountain of a prop - although they are boosted by the return of Australian lock James Horwill.

Quins lost to Leicester and Northampton before beating Sale at home last time out and it's worth chancing that they get outmuscled and taking the odds-against quotes about the visitors.

La Rochelle
1pt 5-4 bet365, BetBright, Betway

Bath v Benetton Treviso
Sky Sports Arena, 5.30pm Saturday

A change of name from Treviso to Benetton Rugby this season seems to have sparked an upsurge in form for the Italian outfit with three wins in the Pro14 already this season.

But a trip to the Rec looks set to end in heavy defeat as they face a Bath side who have impressed in defence and shown a real cutting edge in attack.

The West Country side have scored 11 tries in three home matches and have a strong backline out featuring England trio Anthony Watson, Semesa Rokoduguni and Jonathan Joseph.

The handicap is in the 20s and that looks about right for a Benetton side who ares stubborn but likely to prove ultimately outclassed.

Bath to win by 21 to 30 points
1pt 23-10 BoyleSports

Exeter v Glasgow
BT Sport 2, 7.45pm Saturday

The rugby day starts and ends with a tasty clash in Pool Three between teams who have eached reached the quarter-final for the first time in the last two European campaigns.

Glasgow are the only unbeaten team in Europe's top leagues this season, and although they faced a tough test against the Cheetahs in South Africa last week, it would be unwise to assume they will be weary from the trip and the workout at altitude.

The Warriors outgunned the Cheetahs four tries to two in Bloemfontein, highlighting what a strong all-round game they have after gritty wins at Connacht and Cardiff.

Sandy Park is a fortress for Exeter and they are boosted by the return of top scorers Thomas Waldrom and James Short to their bench. The Chiefs shared four tries apiece with Newcastle in their last home outing and this looks set to be another close-fought and high-scoring match.

Recent meetings – 2013-14: Glasgow 20 Exeter 16, Exeter 10 Glasgow 15.

Glasgow +8
2pts 10-11 general

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Sandy Park is a fortress for Exeter and they are boosted by the return of top scorers Thomas Waldrom and James Short to their bench
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