This is not getting any easier.
Harlequins, who probably need to take the bare minimum of a losing bonus point from tomorrow's visit to Toulouse, have been struck two hefty blows on the selection front: just what a club needs – not – when their chances of making the Heineken Cup knockout stages for the first time in more than a decade are hanging in the balance. Joe Marler, the up-and-coming prop, and Maurie Fa'asavalu, the knock-'em-down flanker, will not participate, having picked up injuries in the home defeat by the French champions eight days ago.
Bath, who rather assumed their hopes of quarter-final qualification depended on an unlikely victory over the European champions Leinster in Dublin this evening, were also on the receiving end of grim news yesterday. Montpellier's decision to omit almost all their big names – one or two are hobbling but others, including Francois Trinh-Duc and the mighty Georgian back-rower Mamuka Gorgodze, will merely be kicking their heels on the bench – means Glasgow have a golden opportunity to consolidate their own chances of progressing as one of the best of the runners-up in the pool stage. As the Scots are already a couple of points clear of the West Countrymen in second place, the argument could virtually be settled by close of play today.
On a more positive note, London Irish are hot favourites to chalk up another victory over the Parisians of Racing Club, opponents who appear to have much more money than European know-how. The Exiles' polyglot pack – a New Zealander, an English-qualified Australian and a Romanian feature in the front row alone – have been working up a head of steam and if the 6ft 6in lock Matt Garvey plays half as well against the Frenchmen as he did against Saracens recently, important people may start talking about him.
The game of the weekend, from the English perspective, is at Welford Road today, where Leicester resume their intriguing tête-à-tete with Clermont Auvergne, who gave the Midlanders a rare old hurry-up six days ago. The visitors are without Aurélien Rougerie, but they will still pack one hell of a punch. Should Leicester lose, they will join the likes of Northampton and Gloucester – and, perhaps, Quins and Bath – in biting the dust.
- More about:
- Guinness Premiership
- Harlequin FC
- Harlequins (rugby)
- London Irish (rugby)