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Half Way There: The European Rugby Power Rankings After Round 3

Half Way There: The European Rugby Power Rankings After Round 3
By Conor O'Leary
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What a weekend that was. From Leicester's stunning win over Toulon, Toulouse's resurgence against Glasgow or Racing's refusing to accept French traditions of lying down away from home, this is another weekend to go along with the best of European rugby's weekend in it's 19 years of history.

One thing is clear in this year's competition: there are a lot of teams on the same level as each other, which is why rankings between 3rd and 12th can change a lot. In my mind, the gap between Clermont in 2nd and in 3rd, is larger than the gap between in 3rd, and in 12th.

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European Rugby Power Rankings

1. Toulon (Last Position 1 - No Change)

1st in Pool 3, 9 pts

Loss away at Leicester, 25-21

I said last week: "Still the de facto best team in Europe. Much like the international rugby rankings, I view Toulon as far out in front as New Zealand are in world rugby." A loss away to one of the better teams in Europe isn't going to change that. Toulon's loss says more about Leicester than it does about Toulon, but it does mean that the return fixture this Saturday is mouthwatering.


Home to Leicester, Saturday 3.15pm

2. Clermont (2 - No Change)

1st in Pool 1, 10 pts


Win away at Munster, 16-9

The difference between Clermont previously and Clermont this season is grit. Ex Leinster coach Jonno Gibbes has given the French club some physicality and defensive steel they were apparently lacking. Their win in Thomond Park was built on a stern defense that refused to buckle and allowed Munster the majority of possession and terrority without ever looking like scoring. It was a very good gameplan and intelligent play, and cements their status as favourites for that pool.

Home to Munster, Sunday 3.15pm


3. Leicester (4 - Up 1)

2nd in Pool 3, 8 points

Their good November form carried over into this week. A win over the best team in Europe is always a good result. In one of the toughest pools, being able to win their home games keeps Leicester in with a shout. Victories over Ulster and Toulon at Welford Road set them up well in preparation for those huge away trips. We'll see if they stay this high.


Away to Toulon, Saturday 3.15pm

4. Northampton (3- Down 1)

2nd in Pool 5, 10 pts


Win away at Treviso, 38-10

It may be harsh to drop a team a spot after a bonus point win, but win their opposition was the worst team in this competition by a distance, a bonus point win is the least they needed. Northampton drop more because of Leicester's win over Toulon rather than anything they did, but that Pool 5 looks very intriguing. Racing, Northampton and Ospreys all look like they have a chance of winning the pool, and with Northampton likely to pick up another 5 points this weekend, they control what happens from the driving seat.

Home to Treviso, Saturday 3.15pm


5. Racing (9- Up 4)

1st in Pool 5, 10 pts

Draw away to Ospreys 19-19

A french team not losing away from home without their marquee signing is always a statement. That that team is Racing Metro, and they are still top of the pool and they prevented another pool rival from a home victory is telling. Racing finally have a squad of settled stars, and with Sexton to come back in, they could eliminate Ospreys from the competition this Saturday.

Home to Ospreys, Saturday 5.15 pm

6. Toulouse (13 - Up 7)

1st in Pool 4, 12 pts

Win at home to Glasgow, 19-11

It doesn't matter how bad their domestic form is, Toulouse are a different animal in Europe. Glasgow are a rising force and Duncan Weir will kick himself for missing that last minute conversion for a losing bonus point, but Toulouse are now top of the pool, and in pole position. While I fancy Glasgow to return the favour at home against the French giants, Toulouse deservedly move up after the weekend.

Away at Glasgow, Saturday 1 pm

7. Harlequins (11 - Up 4)

1st in Pool 2, 12pts

Win at home to Leinster 24-18

Harlequins did what they needed to against Leinster to pull out the win, despite an early injury to key man Nick Evans. They now hold all the advantage in the pool going into what will be the pool decided in Lansdowne Road on Saturday.

Away at Leinster, Saturday 7.45 pm

8. Munster (5 - Down 3)

2nd in Pool 1, 9 pts

Lost at home to Clermont 9-16

In one sense, a loss at home in a pool that contains the two semi finalists of the last European rugby competition is a devastating blow. In another sense, there is no shame in losing to Clermont and getting the losing bonus point. They fall a few spots here more because of other teams success rather than their loss.

Munster will be upset with the lack of attacking thrust, but their lack of centres is already apparent. It's by no means all over for Munster, but they need at least 10 points from their remaining three games in the pool to be in with a shout, with trips to Clermont and Saracens to come. It's not impossible, but it is the type of grand task that would go down in Munster folklore were it to happen.

Away to Clermont, Sunday 3.15pm

9. Saracens (8- Down 1)

3rd in Pool 1, 9 pts

Win away at Sale 19-15.

I may be being harsh, but not getting a bonus point could come back to haunt Saracens. They are by no means out of the running for top spot in Pool 1, but in a pool as competitive as this, bonus points will be vital. Familiarity may be against them, but a maximum return from the weekend is imperative for the Watford franchise.

Home to Sale, Saturday 5.15pm

10. Glasgow (7 - Down 3)

2nd in Pool 4, 9 pts

Lost away at Toulouse, 11-19

How badly they needed that final missed conversion. Losing by 8 away from home is always tough to take, but Glasgow showed enough to suggest they can return the favour when the french team visit Scotstoun.


Home to Toulouse, Saturday 1 pm

11. Ulster (10 - Down 1)

3rd in Pool 3, 6 pt

Win at home to Scarlets 24-9

It seems strange to drop Ulster given their performance last Saturday retained their small hopes. But teams that rose above them did well and all have more realistic hopes of reaching the competition's knockout stages.

Ulster look the most capable of Ireland's three Champions Cup teams to score tries, and they obliged at the weekend. They'll need to repeat the trick a few more times if they are to make waves in the competition. Pienaar's return from injury will help, but there are legitimate concerns about Stuart Olding after his 3rd concussion this season, while Stuart McCloskey looks to have done ligament damage and could be out for a while. This leaves Ulster in the not ideal position of relying on an injury prone Luke Marshall who is himself just returning from injury.

Home to Scarlets, Sunday 5.15 pm

12. Leinster (6 - Down 6)

2nd in Pool 2, 9 pts

Loss away at Harlequins, 18-24

Last week I wrote:

"The positive thing about Leinster at the moment is that they are grinding out results. Admitedly, these are against teams that they should be steamrolling. They have got into some sticky situations recently, the draw with Treviso and struggling against the Ospreys second string are not good showings. They seem to struggle to cut teams open, but still manage to eke out results. Their season will be defined on how they do against the better teams, and the sense I get from watching them play in 3rd gear at the moment is that they may not know how to get out of 3rd gear when the situation calls for it."

There are two positives to take from the weekend. 1. Luke Fitzgerald has the potential to open up games. 2. They are still in with a more than reasonable shout of qualifying as top of the pool. Just don't expect try bonus points, expect needlessly close games that end up with wins.

Home to Harlequins, Saturday 7.45 pm

13. Ospreys (14 - Up 1)

3rd in Pool 5, 7pts

Draw at home to Racing, 19-19

Dropping points at home in what has turned out to be a competitive pool could be very costly for the Ospreys. They nearly lost the game, if it wasn't for a try in the final ten minutes from Josh Matavesi.

Home to Racing Metro, Saturday 5.15 pm

14. Scarlets (12 - Down 2)

2nd in Pool 3, 4 pts

Loss away at Ulster, 9-24

Scarlets didn't live up to expectations in a facile win for Ulster. They still have the ability to beat anyone on their day, but seem very inconsistent. Scarlets seem to struggle against Ulster, and the Northerners need a full 5 points when they travel to West Wales on Sunday.

Home to Ulster, Sunday 5.15 pm

15. Bath (15- No Change)

3rd in Pool 4, 5pts

Win away at Montpeiller 30-5

Bath were very impressive on Friday. I'd say they were as impressive as Montpeiller were shocking. George Ford's confidence is high at the moment, and with weapons like Eastmond and Joseph outside him, Bath are developing a squad for next season. Unfortunately for them, their race is run for this year despite their maximum against an awful Montpeiller team.

Home to Montpeiller, Friday 7.45 pm

16. Wasps (17 - Up 1)

3rd in Pool 2, 7 pts

Win away at Castres, 32-17

It took a while, but the newly based Coventry side got the full 5 points against a gusty Castres display. They showed some ability against the French side, and like Bath, will be stronger in further years after the experience.

Home to Castres, Sunday 1 pm

17. Sale (18 - Up 1)

4th in Pool 1, 1pt

Loss at home to Saracens, 15-19

Familiarity with Saracens did help them last weekend, yet another loss, this time at home puts the final nail in their coffin for this year. It was an improved showing from Sale, but a loss is a loss, and they only move up due to the inepitude of the falling Montpeiller.

Away to Saracens, Saturday 3.15 pm

18. Castres (19 - Up 1)

4th in Pool 2, 1pt

Loss at home to Wasps, 17-32

A depleted Castres side showed up well at home, and gave Wasps a lot of headaches. Alas, it was a lack of discipline which cost them in the end, with a lot of late scores putting some gloss on the scoreline that Castres didn't deserve. This just means that they will not be interested when they come to Dublin, hopefully giving Leinster a chance to play their way into form.

Away to Wasps, Sunday 1 pm

19. Montpeiller (14- Down 5)

4th in Pool 4, 2 pts

Loss at home to Bath, 5-30

That was the worst performance I've seen from any side in Europe. Montpeiller are in disarray, and there is no wonder why the likes of Ranger want out. For a side packed with talent, the lack of effort and cohesive is startling. A lot of work needs to be done based on this performance.

Home to Bath, Friday 7.45 pm

20. Treviso (20 - No Change)

4th in Pool 5, 0 pts

Loss at home to Northampton, 15-38

They aren't as far away from 19th spot as they were, but they remain without a point in the tournament, and until that happens, 20th seems a good spot for Treviso. Victims of horrific squad turnover, I can't help but wonder how much better Zebre would be.

Away to Northampton, Saturday 3.15 pm

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