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Saracens should defy absences to stride away from Lyon

Munster can maintain focus to see off Gloucester

Maro Itoje makes ground with the ball for Saracens against Gloucester
1 of 1

Saracens v Lyon
BT Sport 2, 5.30pm Saturday

Saracens may be shorn of the services of the Vunipola brothers, Nick Isiekwe and Alex Lozowski after their hard-fought win at Glasgow but they still look too strong for Lyon at Allianz Park.

Jackson Wray, Richie Barrington and Nick Tompkins are not ordinary back-ups while evergreen South African superstar Schalk Burger steps up to the bench. Ben Spencer comes in for Richard Wigglesworth at scrum-half and wing David Strettle is not even among the replacements with the return to fitness of Wales and Lions ace Liam Williams.

Lyon have won at Racing 92 and Perpignan in the Top 14 this term but Sunday's home loss to Cardiff must have hurt and Sarries, who will be reminded of the cost of taking it easy at home to Clermont last season, are taken to claim a fourth Allianz Park victory of the season by between 21 and 30 points.

Recommendation
Saracens to win by 21 to 30 points
1pt 10-3 Betfair


Racing 92 v Ulster
BT Sport 3, 5.30pm Saturday

Last season's runners-up Racing 92, who have won their last five Parisian European encounters averaging 29 points a game, should build on their sneaking of a success at Scarlets last Saturday with a home win over Ulster.

However, it may not be a runaway success with free-flowing rugby because the visitors will be lifted by their second-half efforts in brushing off Leicester in Belfast the same afternoon. There were excuses for their heavy defeat at Munster and surprise Kingspan Stadium loss to Connacht.

Ulster have struggled to cope with opponents' rolling mauls and direct forward thrusts on the road this season so Racing 92 are bound to probe with their heavyweight forwards, who were the key to victory in Wales.

Lock Leone Nakarawa, who scored four tries in last year's run to the final in Bilbao, is taken to open his account for this term. 

Recommendation
L Nakarawa to score a try
1pt 7-2 Betfair


Wasps v Bath
BT Sport 2, 3.15pm Saturday

Two sides who need to pick themselves up from soul-destroying defeats meet at the Ricoh Arena.

Hosts Wasps were hammered 52-3 at holders Leinster last Friday while Bath would have beaten Toulouse at the Rec on Saturday but for Freddie Burns' two late madcap moments.

Burns and Bath had been enjoying a decent afternoon before the penalty posted from in-front and the in-goal knock-on after gloating on ghosting through so are taken to stay within nine points.

Wasps lost 31-25 at home to Gloucester in the Premiership a fortnight ago and Bath prevailed 25-9 in Coventry in the league last October. Wasps exacted revenge 31-26 at the Rec in December. 

Recommendation
Bath +9
1pt Evs Hills


Edinburgh v Toulon
BT Sport 3, 3.15pm Saturday

Edinburgh were steamrolled 32-22 by La Rochelle in a 2016-17 Challenge Cup quarter-final at Murrayfield but bookmakers may be right to make them odds-on to add to three-time Champion Cup winners Toulon's travails.

The Gunners have edged their last two Challenge Cup pool meetings with French heavyweights Stade Francais and have won all three of their Pro14 home games this term.

Toulon will have been stung by the poor decision-making and discipline that marked Sunday's loss to Newcastle but they have lost all four of their road games in the Top 14 and have been nudged out on six of their last seven European ventures.

A narrow Edinburgh win looks the best bet.

Recommendation
Edinburgh to win by one to 12 points
1pt 8-5 Betfair


Munster v Gloucester
Channel 4/BT Sport 2, 1pm Saturday

Munster are 1-8 to make it ten straight Champions Cup victories at Thomond Park and five wins on the spin against Gloucester when they host the Cherry & Whites in Limerick.

The Red Army hordes will be expectant of a wide-margin success after seeing this season's three Pro14 visitors vanquished by a combined 151-20. But head coach Johan van Graan and captain Peter O'Mahony are focused and respect not only the added flair that Danny Cipriani brings to a speedy away backline but the improved resolve in defence and the pack, where flanker Jake Polledri is making waves.

Last season after drawing at Castres, Munster edged out Racing 14-7 with all 21 points coming in the final quarter of the game and, with a drab, drizzly afternoon forecast, expansive tactics are likely to be sacrificed for turning possession and territory into points.

Gloucester are not as formidable as Exeter, who Munster drew with last Saturday or Racing 92, so back a home win by between 11 and 20 points.  

Recent meetings - 2013-14: Gloucester 7 Munster 20, Munster 26 Gloucester 10; 2007-08: Gloucester 3 Munster 16.

Recommendation
Munster to win by 11 to 20 points
1pt 13-5 Betfair


Castres v Exeter
BT Sport 3, 1pm Saturday

Castres are worth a bet with a four-point start from visitors Exeter.

The Top 14 kings were turned over 14-7 at Stade Pierre-Fabre by second-placed Stade Francais a fortnight ago but they had already beaten third-placed Lyon and Grenoble in front of their fans this term and last season at home in the Champions Cup, they drew with Munster and saw off Racing 92 and Leicester.

The Chiefs are a high-octane side who rarely take a step backwards and they won 27-24 at Montpellier last year. However, their opening draw with Munster was much more intense than the hosts' bonus-point loss at Gloucester and back-rower Dave Ewers and locks Sam Skinner and Dave Dennis have joined the list of sidelined pack stars.

Recommendation
Castres +4
1pt 9-10 Betfred    


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Burns and Bath had been enjoying a decent afternoon before the penalty posted from in-front and the in-goal knock-on after gloating
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