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Sunday, 16 December, 2018

Power of Saracens pack looks key to clash at Glasgow

Castres could prove up for a scrap at Gloucester

Maro Itoje makes ground with the ball for Saracens against Gloucester
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Glasgow v Saracens
BT Sport 2, 3.15pm Sunday

Saracens' pack laid the platform for their 38-13 quarter-final success over Glasgow at Allianz Park two seasons ago and the away forwards and Owen Farrell's boot are taken to be the key to sneaking the spoils in a high-quality contest between the sides at Scotstoun. 

Sarries showed their mettle at Harlequins last weekend to come back from 20-12 down to make it six wins out of six in the Premiership, five of them claimed with the try-bonus point.

The Warriors top Pro14 Conference A with five wins out of six but apart from a meritable 25-10 home win over Munster, the calibre of their opposition is nowhere near as high as Saracens.

The English side have not lost in 13 outings since losing 30-19 to Leinster in Dublin in last year's quarter-finals.   

Recent meetings - 2016-17: Saracens 38 Glasgow 13; 2007-08: Saracens 33 Glasgow 31, Glasgow 17 Saracens 21. 

Recommendation
Saracens to win by one to 12 points
1pt 15-8 Betfair


Toulon v Newcastle
BT Sport 3, 3.15pm Sunday

Newcastle are not finding life easy in the Premiership this season after flying under the radar into fourth place last May but they look worth a wager with a 17-point start at Toulon.

Toulon's European title treble from 2013 to 2015 seems a long-time ago and they are strangely out-of-sorts in the Top 14 with two wins from seven games.

Bath and Scarlets both stayed well within single-figure margins at Stade Mayol last season and while the Falcons have lost cosily on the road at Leicester and Sale this term, they were a lively force on their travels last season and have shown ability by pushing England's top trio of Saracens, Exeter and Wasps hard at home this autumn.   

Recommendation
Newcastle +17
1pt 10-11 general


Gloucester v Castres
BT Sport 2, 1pm Sunday

Castres were shocking on the road in the Champions Cup last season, losing by at least 22 points at Leicester, Racing 92 and Munster but they can find a way to stay with 17 points of Gloucester at Kingsholm.

Forecast rain and wind is likely to take the sharpness out of the Cherry & Whites' traditional expansive tactics and while the hosts pack more of a punch in the pack under Johan Ackermann, the current kings of France love a forwards-based scrap especially when underestimated.

On the road in the Top 14 this term, Castres have won at Montpellier and Toulouse and lost out by a point at Toulon.

Gloucester were wonderful with Danny Cipriani running the show in their win at Wasps last weekend, but they were beaten in front of the Shed faithful by Quins a fortnight ago and did not have it all their own way in home triumphs over Northampton and Bristol either.

Recommendation
Castres +17
1pt 10-11 Coral, Ladbrokes


Lyon v Cardiff Blues
BT Sport 3, 1pm Sunday

Lyon should be backed to give up ten points in avenging January's 21-19 Challenge Cup loss to Cardiff at Stade Gerland.

The Wolves won 19-13 at Racing 92 last weekend and have devoured Grenoble and Montpellier in their last two home Top 14 outings. They claimed seven try-bonus home league wins on the way to defeat in the semi-finals last season and are safely in the race for the knockouts this time. 

The Blues won the Challenge Cup in May with a last-gasp 31-30 success over Gloucester in Bilbao and have continued to attack with verve in the Pro14 this season. However, they have conceded 18 tries too and have lost from leading positions on the road at Benetton and Zebre. 

Recommendation
Lyon -10
1pt 10-11 Betway, Sky Bet


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Newcastle are not finding life easy in the Premiership this season after flying under the radar into fourth place last May
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