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Sunday, 16 December, 2018

Saracens can start hat-trick bid with narrow success at Saints

Stander and Strettle are tryscorer picks

Brad Barritt scores for Saracens against Northampton
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Castres v Munster
Sky Sports Action, 1pm Sunday

Bookmakers look right to expect Munster to mark the one-year anniversary of Red Army legend Anthony Foley's death with a strong showing against Castres at Stade Pierre Fabre.

Munster were magnificent in the pool stages last season, winning in Glasgow, at Racing 92 and in their three Thomond Park outings and losing by two points at Leicester. They dismantled Toulouse in the quarter-finals and it took a supreme performance from Saracens to stop their charge in the semi-finals.

They have ticked over tidily in the Pro14 this term. despite defeats at Glasgow and Leinster, after losing May's Grand Final to Scarlets. By contrast, Castres suffered their fifth defeat of their Top 14 campaign at bottom-of-the-pile Brive last weekend.

However, home victories over Bordeaux and Clermont last month suggest that Castres remain a capable outfit and the bet that appeals most is CJ Stander to score a try at 7-2.  

Munster will know that they need to win the forward battle and Ireland and Lions back-rower Stander is always a prominent ball-carrier. He barged over against Racing in Paris and in both knockout games last season.

Recommendation
CJ Stander to score a try
1pt 7-2 Betfair, Paddy Power


More rugby union

Champions Cup tournament preview 

Challenge Cup tournament preview 


Toulon v Scarlets
Sky Sports Action, 3.15pm Sunday    

Toulon are not the side who claimed a hat-trick of European crowns before Saracens' back-to-back triumphs but they are still a terrific team and it is no surprise to see them asked to give up eight points to Scarlets, who have lost nine European away games on the spin.

However, a ten-point start for Scarlets underestimates the improvement in their game since December's 31-20 pool-stage loss at the venue and the quality of May's final Pro12 kings.

Scarlets gained revenge in the return match and their sole defeat in their last 13 games was a 27-20 loss at Ulster last month when they were arguably the better side on an emotional evening in Belfast. Their victories include knockout successes over Leinster and Munster in Dublin and last February they triumphed at Glasgow and beat Munster at Thomond Park.

Toulon thumped Pau in their first Top 14 home game but since then there have been single-figure successes over Stade Francais and La Rochelle. They have lost their last two round-one games.

Recommendation
Scarlets +10
1pt 10-11 bet365, Coral   


Northampton v Saracens
BT Sport 1, 5.30pm Sunday

Saracens begin their bid for a European title treble against familiar foes Northampton, who they walloped 55-24 at Twickenham in their Premiership season-opener.

Bookmakers aren't expecting a Sarries stroll at Franklin's Gardens though, as while Saints have endured some heavy European home defeats in recent years to Leinster and Racing Metro, they showed fair mettle and fizz in winning four league games on the spin before last weekend's narrow loss at Gloucester.

Sarries moved back to the top of the Premiership with a cosy win over Wasps last weekend but their victories at Worcester and over Newcastle in Philadelphia were more workmanlike than 22-point winning margins suggest and they lost to Bath in a ding-dong battle at the Rec. 

Have a wager on Saracens winning by a margin of between one and 12 points. They sneaked the spoils in April's league scrap and enjoyed a 29-20 2015-16 quarter-final success at Allianz Park.

Recommendation
Saracens to win by one to 12 points
1pt 7-4 Betfair

Ospreys v Clermont
BT Sport 3, 5.30pm Sunday

Ospreys have won both their Liberty Stadium meetings with French heavyweights Clermont but so bad is their current Pro14 form that they cannot even be considered with a seven-point start against opponents who have lost all four away Top 14 games this term.

Experienced Clermont wing David Strettle is worth backing to score a try at 6-4. Strettle scored a second try of the season in last weekend's loss at Toulouse and has 17 tournament touchdowns including a brace against the Ospreys in last season's Stade Marcel-Michelin meeting.

Four of the 18 tries Ospreys have conceded this season have been to wingers.

Recommendation
D Strettle to score a try
1pt 6-4 Coral, Ladbrokes


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A ten-point start for Scarlets underestimates the improvement in their game since December's 31-20 pool-stage loss
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