Matt Williams pinpoints the likely challengers to Leinster's Heineken Champions Cup crown

He and Ruaidhri O'Connor look ahead to the start of the competition

BY Raf Diallo 20:28 Wednesday 10 October 2018, 20:28 10 Oct 2018

This weekend, the 2018-19 rugby season reaches another milestone as the Heineken Champions Cup pool stages get underway.

Defending European champions Leinster host Wasps at the RDS on Friday, while Munster visit Exeter Chiefs on Saturday.

Meanwhile, Ulster welcome Leicester Tigers to Kingspan Stadium on Saturday evening.

On Wednesday Night Rugby, Joe Molloy was joined by the Irish Independent's Ruaidhri O'Connor and ex-Leinster head coach Matt Williams to start casting an eye towards the European season. 

 

Williams looked at who can challenge favourites Leinster for the Heineken Champions Cup.

"The beauty of the Heineken Cup is that it always throws up a team that might not be performing so well in its own league and they perform extraordinarily well in the Champions Cup," he said. 

"But all the evidence right now is saying that Leinster and Saracens and Exeter will be there when the whips are cracking.

"The really interesting scenario this year is the French because we all know the way the Cup is done.

"It's where you finish the previous year depends on where you are in the Champions Cup. And the two leading clubs in the Top 14 are Clermont and Stade Francais and they're not in the Cup. They both had poor years.

"And last year's annual high performers, Toulon, are in relegation trouble and Montpellier have had a very poor start to the season. They've come good recently and Racing are right in the middle, Racing 92.

"So the French become the unknown. But Leinster are the trendsetters and the frontrunners."

Turning his attentions to Munster who have struggled away domestically, Williams said, "If they don't come away from Sandy Park with at least a losing bonus point, it could be all over for them because I don't think they're going to get enough points to be second in that pool."

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