4 Things We Learned From The European Window
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Back to the grind.
The European window is now closed, with clubs now set to shift focus back to their respective domestic leagues, before they meet again in mid-January to decide who will make the knockout stages.
It was a memorable window for the Irish provinces, and a rather forgettable one for the English Premiership teams. Leicester, Exeter and Harlequins were beaten home and away by Munster, Leinster and Ulster respectively, while champions Saracens lost both their fixtures to Clermont.
It wasn’t all doom and gloom for the English clubs however, with Bath pulling off a famous win over Toulon at the Rec, leaving them at the top of their pool heading into the Christmas period Wasp also beat La Rochelle at the Ricoh in their return fixture, giving them an outside chance of qualifying,.
Here are four things we learned from the European window.
Leinster & Clermont are now the clear favourites.
If you were to put your money on a team to win it at this stage it would Leinster or Clermont, with the former slight favourites due to their pedigree. While Clermont have reach a number of finals, they’ve never actually won the competition. Leinster on the other hand are chasing their fourth title. They showed huge resolve to come back against Exeter at the Aviva and tick all the boxes when it comes to winning the Champions Cup in 2018.
Three Irish provinces will likely make the knockout stages.
Leinster and Munster have taken control of their groups with back-to-back wins, while Ulster are now breathing down La Rochelle’s necks after doing the double over Harlequins. Heading into the final two rounds, it’s very likely we will see all three Irish provinces qualify for the last eight.
Saracens are out of the running.
The champions are currently third in their pool and look to be in all kinds of trouble. While they were much improved in their return fixture with Clermont, you just really can’t see them winning the competition this time round. They will probably end up qualifying as one of the best second placed teams, but expect them to go out at the quarter final stages away from home.
The Premiership clubs aren’t as good as they think.
As previously discussed above, it’s been a window to forget for the English clubs. Completely dominated by the Irish provinces, it’s hard to see a winner coming from the Aviva Premiership in 2018. Bath look to be their only hope, but from what we’ve seen from them, they’re not quite at that level just yet. Is it fatigue that’s hurting the Premiership teams?