Heineken Cup 2013: Highlighting Crucial Sunday Fixtures

Matt JonesFeatured ColumnistDecember 8, 2013

EDINBURGH, SCOTLAND - OCTOBER 12:  James Downey of Munster tackles Jack Cuthbert of Edinburgh during the Heineken Cup Pool 6 Match between Edinburgh and Munster at Murrayfield Stadium, on October 12, 2013 in Edinburgh, Scotland. (Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)
Ian MacNicol/Getty Images

The Heineken Cup is back with a bang this weekend with a full round of fixtures.

With two games gone, the pools are starting to take shape. Those teams who have won both ties will be looking to streak clear atop their group, whereas those who have suffered defeat will be well aware they can’t afford to slip up again.

The pick of the action will come on Sunday and we have a plethora of intriguing contests to sample. Let’s take a look at a couple of the biggest games to be played this weekend:

Munster vs Perpignan - Pool 6


Munster: 15 Jones, 14 Earls, 13 Laulala, 12 Downey, 11 Murphy, 10 Keatley, 9 Murray, 8 Coughlan, 7 Dougall, 6 O'Mahony (c), 5 O'Connell, 4 O'Callaghan, 3 Archer, 2 Varley, 1 Kilcoyne

Perpignan: 15 Hook (c), 14 Michel, 13 Benvenuti, 12 Votu, 11 Guitoune, 10 Lopez, 9 Ecochard, 8 Purll, 7 Strokosch, 6 Perez, 5e Vilaceca, 4 Charteris, 3 Ion, 2 Terrain, 1 Taofifenua

EDINBURGH, SCOTLAND - OCTOBER 12: James Cronin of Munster is tackled by Grant Gilchrist and Dave Denton of Edinburgh during the The Heineken Cup Pool 6 Match between Edinburgh and Munster at Murrayfield Stadium, on October 12, 2013 in Edinburgh, Scotland.
Ian MacNicol/Getty Images

After suffering a surprise defeat to Edinburgh in their opening Pool 6 game, Munster find themselves facing a must-win tie against Perpignan at Thomond Park.

They will be buoyed after a strong team was named ahead of this one. The Irish side will welcome back their skipper Peter O’Mahony and Connor Murray, which should give them a major boost going into what promises to be a tight and tense affair. 

Munster will be confident heading into this clash after a win on the road against the Dragons last time out, but so too will Perpignan. They conquered Edinburgh with ease in their previous pool game, and their bonus point victory sees them one point clear of Munster atop of Pool 6. 

The French must get on top early to help nullify what promises to be a raucous Irish crowd. If Munster’s dominant forward line set an early precedent, then that will only stir up the atmosphere. A clinical start and a big display from the French forwards is a must for Perpignan.

Both teams will be well aware of how rare it is for a team to qualify after losing two games, especially when you consider how tight this particular group is. It looks as though neither of these sides will be capable of qualifying as a highest ranking second placed team, so a win is an absolute must.

Leicester vs Montpellier - Pool 5


Leicester: 15 Hamilton, 14 Thompstone, 13 Goneva, 12 Bowden, 11 Benjamin, 10 Flood (c), 9 B. Youngs, 8 Crane, 7 Salvi, 6 Gibson, 5 Kitchener, 4 Deacon, 3 Cole, 2 T. Youngs, 1 Ayerza

Montpellier: 15 Floch, 14 Nagusa, 13 Ranger, 12 Combezou , 11 Audrin, 10 Trinh Duc, 9 Pelissie, 8 Beattie, 7 Gorgodze, 6 Galletier, 5 De Marco, 4 Hamilton, 3 Bustos, 2 Geli, 1 Leleimalefaga.

GLOUCESTER, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 29:  Matt Kvesic of Gloucester passes the ball during the Aviva Premiership match between Gloucester and Leicester Tigers at Kingsholm Stadium on November 29, 2013 in Gloucester, England.  (Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images
David Rogers/Getty Images

Leicester will be hoping to make some ground on Pool 5 leaders Ulster as they take on Montpellier at Welford Road. They will be without England international duo Geoff Parling and Manu Tuilagi, but they will welcome back Jordan Crane at number 8 in place of Thomas Waldrom.

The home side will be hugely confident of getting a result as they come into this one on the back of consecutive domestic victories. The Tigers are also unbeaten in this competition at home since 2006.

Ulster do look strong in this group, but the Tigers must keep on their tails. They have back-to-back home and away games against Montpellier over the next two weekends and they must win both if they are to remain hopeful of qualifying as one of the highest ranked second placed teams.

Montpellier will be tough opposition, but two consecutive victories for Leicester will leave them in excellent shape to qualify for the knockout stages.