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Will Greenwood: Back Clermont and Saracens to make the Heineken Cup final

Paul O'Connell's Munster have their work cut out against Clermont

"In truth, Clermont can score from anywhere and it’s likely that as soon as Munster locate an area to lockdown and keep tight, the French side will pop up in another area and punish them."

Back Munster/Clermont in the HT/FT market at 5.85/1

Betfair Ambassador Will Greenwood runs the rule over the four teams left in this year's Heineken Cup and can see a French-English battle in the final...


Clermont Auvergne v Munster
Kick-off: Saturday 16:30 
TV: Live on Sky Sports 1

Montpellier made it as difficult as they could for them, but Clermont swashbuckled their way to a 59th successive home win in the quarter-final to book a semi-final tie with the fiery red of Munster, ironically to be played at beaten Montpellier's Stade de la Mosson. 

Munster showed that, by showing scant regard for your own personal safety and putting your body on the line for that famous red shirt, you can go places otherwise thought beyond you. Give thy body to Munster and ye shall be rewarded. Harlequins were bruised, battered and ultimately defeated in their own backyard.

This semi-final has the makings of a classic encounter for all the ages: the flair and ability of Clermont behind their massive pack is genuinely frightening, but Munster simply do not know when to quit. This is going to be brutal and a game that will live long in the memory.

While Clermont blew Montpellier away with tries from numbers 11, 12, 13, 14 and 15 in astonishing style, Munster were more spoilers than pace-setters, not allowing to Harlequins to get into their rhythm and making it edgy for them. They were physical and dominant around the breakdown and made it count when it really mattered.

Can they do this to Clermont? Hmm, difficult and on balance I'd say no. But if they are to have any chance at all against this team that, should they win this year's Heineken Cup would rightly be considered one of the great teams of recent times, then they need to do what they did against Quins. 

In truth, Clermont can score from anywhere and it's likely that as soon as Munster locate an area to lockdown and keep tight, the French side will pop up in another area and punish them. But that doesn't mean it won't be close, and with big players like Ronan O'Gara and Paul O'Connell in their ranks, the Red Army can at least have a say in what happens in this match. 

Recommended Bets

My best bet on Saturday teatime is to back Munster +11.5pts in the handicap, because I think they can stay in touch just through sheer will and desire. 1.910/11 seems a fair price for that and I'll take it.

If you fancy a bit more of a flutter, Back Munster/Clermont in the HT/FT market at 5.85/1 - Munster will try to overwhelm Clermont early on and try to disrupt their rhythm, and it may take the French outfit a while to shake the Irishmen off.

Saracens v Toulon
Kick-off: Sunday 14:00
TV: Live on Sky Sports 2

What a game Toulon v Leicester in the quarter-final was, and not just because we called it right in this column. Leicester refused to roll over, refused to give in and refused to be defeated until the very final whistle and I was impressed and inspired by their courage. In the end, Jonny Wilkinson had to get his boot out to settle it, and he'll need to be on top form again for his side to come away from Twickenham with a place in the final safely in their pockets.

If reports are to be believed, Twickenham won't be anywhere near capacity on Sunday but I don't think that's really going to affect either team. A lot of Toulon's players have played at Twickenham many times before and so Saracens hopes of whipping the stadium into a partisan cauldron of intimidation probably wouldn't have had much effect regardless. I don't think Saracens will be affected by the lack of supporters in the arena either; this is a highly motivated team. They want to win this competition and don't care if a few men and their dogs are all who see them do so.

The market has this game a tricky one to call, and I agree with that assessment. For all Toulon's quality I still have a suspicion that they're not quite the sum of their parts yet and they showed that when they struggled to put Leicester away. Saracens can win this game provided they are physical and dominant at the breakdown and stop Toulon runners at the gain line effectively. The Men in Black have superb mental strength and can use that focus to force Toulon into errors and then capitalise, and that's exactly what I see happening on Sunday afternoon.

Owen Farrell versus Jonny Wilkinson has the makings of a real changing-of-the-guard type affair, provided Farrell can put in a performance. Jonny will be planning on letting Owen know that he's not quite ready to shuffle off yet though and will make it exceptionally difficult for the young pretender to his crown. On his day, Jonny Wilkinson is still a world class rugby player and a lot will depend on how well he rises to one more occasion at his old stomping ground. 

Recommended Bet

Back Saracens to beat Toulon at 2.0621/20

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25 April 2013

Heineken Cup

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