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ESPN SCRUM / ESPNscrum Columnist
Tom Hamilton
Tom Hamilton | Columnist Index
Tom Hamilton was brought up on the stands of the Recreation Ground and joined ESPN in June 2011 as assistant editor of ESPNscrum.
Follow him on Twitter @tomESPNscrum
Heineken Cup
Jamie Roberts returns for Racing Metro
Tom Hamilton
December 13, 2013
Leinster were sublime last weekend © PA Photos
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Last weekend the Heineken Cup was painted green, the Irish sides were dominant. Connacht pulled off one of the great results in the competition when they beat Toulouse while Munster, Leinster and Ulster all recorded comfortable victories. In France, Harlequins outplayed Racing Metro and highlighted the Top 14 team's shortcomings.

There is still plenty to play for as we head into round four as the majority of teams still have a sniff of a chance of making the knockout stages.

Team News

  • Sam Davies makes his Heineken Cup debut for Ospreys
  • Donnacha Ryan starts for Munster
  • Jamie Roberts returns from injury to take the inside centre berth for Racing Metro
  • Saints make three changes with Salesi Ma'afu, Christian Day and Calum Clark starting
  • Jonny Wilkinson misses out for Toulon with Matt Giteau starting at fly-half
  • Ian Madigan keeps the fly-half berth for Leinster with Jimmy Gopperth on the bench
  • Sila Puafisi makes Gloucester debut at tight-head

This weekend the Irish will be the teams to beat and with the rugby kicking off on Friday night, we take a look at the in-form sides and those who have work to do alongside all the latest team news.

In form

Connacht's shock win in Toulouse was one of the biggest upsets in the tournament's history while Leinster put together a performance reminiscent of the form we have seen from them in the past when they have gone all the way. The three-times champions sit pretty at the top of their group while Ulster also lead theirs thanks to an easy win over Treviso.

Elsewhere, Harlequins impressed last weekend with their four-try win in Nantes against Racing Metro while Munster had it oh so easy against Perpignan.

Player wise, Brian O'Driscoll is defying Old Father Time as he continues to pull the strings for Leinster while Sean O'Brien is also playing at the top of his game.

Out of form

The Ospreys, despite their array of talent, have been woeful in Europe and have just one point to their name after three matches. Metro have also struggled and although Toulouse are at the top of their pool, they were outplayed by Connacht last weekend.

And then there are the Italians. Zebre and Treviso are yet to register a point in the competition and with matches against Saracens and Ulster this weekend, they will have to wait a while longer.

Tie of the round

There are plenty of eye-catching games this weekend with Toulon's match against Exeter one that should be very watchable while Leinster's game versus Northampton Saints will see the English side look to make amends for their thrashing last weekend. But we feel the Scarlets' game against Clermont Auvergne has the potential to be the game of the weekend. They are two teams who like to throw the ball around and both have exciting backs. It should be a great match.

Trivia

The Ospreys are on their worst losing run in the competition since 2003.

Glasgow Warriors have made the most meters in the tournament this season with 1755.

Wales centre Jamie Roberts, England v Wales, Six Nations, Twickenham, England, February 25, 2012
Jamie Roberts is back in Racing Metro colours © PA Photos
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Leinster have conceded a competition low 23 points in the opening three rounds of this season.

Racing Metro have had an average of just 10mins 55secs of possession so far this season - the lowest in the tournament.

Stats

Connacht's Dan Parks and Harlequins' Nick Evans lead the points-scoring stakes in the Heineken Cup with 41 each.

Four players have scored three tries so far - Luke Fitzgerald, Rhodri Williams, Chris Ashton, Chris Wyles.

Exeter Chiefs' Dave Ewers has made the most carries with 51.

Scarlets beware, Sitiveni Sivivatu has made 380 metres with ball in hand. He's also beaten the most defenders - 17.

Betting

Leinster are the favourites to win the tournament at 3/1 with Bet365 with Toulon and Clermont at 7/2 and 5/1 respectively. You can also have a pop at which nationality you feel will end up winning the competition - if you feel a French side will win it, prices of 10/11 are available with the Irish at 6/4.

Predictions

On Friday night there will be wins for Glasgow and the Ospreys. Come Saturday, Ulster, Toulon, Saracens, Munster, Clermont, Toulouse and Leinster will be victorious. Sunday will see Harlequins, Gloucester and Montpellier emerge with wins.

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd
Tom Hamilton is the Assistant Editor of ESPNscrum.

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