Heineken Cup: Ulster could be out of luck in search of 13th win

Ben Foden is back from international duty to lend a hand to Northampton

The Riddler was one of the few analysts that fancied England to do well against the All Blacks last week and he tipped Australia to beat Wales for good measure. Our man looks at Round Three of the Heineken Cup and has come up with two beauties for you this weekend.

It is the first time this season that Mallinder has had all his internationals fit and the coach even admitted to having that rare luxury of a selection headache this week

Heineken Cup preview - Round 3
It is around 2.89/5 that all three teams that lead their respective divisions in Europe win during round three of the Heineken Cup this weekend, but I would rather be a layer than a backer.
Ulster's flawless record this season in both the Heineken Cup and RaboDirect 12 has sent out a message throughout Europe and they currently trade at around 2.35/4 for their clash with Northampton at Franklin's Gardens on Friday.
Premiership pace-setters Harlequins look to have a drop-kick against Zebre in the Stadio XXV Aprile on Saturday, while Toulon put to the test the notion that French sides cannot travel by taking on Sale in Salford City Stadium.
The cornerstone of the treble of course is Ulster, because the other two are such long-odds on and according to my ratings it looks as if Ulster could be unlucky in their quest for their 13th successive victory this season.
Ulster's unbeaten sequence is the only one out of all the teams in Europe's major leagues, and although top dog status in the RaboDirect Pro 12 carries little weight with me, you have to give a team credit where it is due.
Last season's surprise Heineken Cup finalists have achieved their winning run in all competitions without the considerable skills of Stephen Ferris, who remains injured. They have played an exciting brand of rugby, too, scoring the most points and tries in their section.
Mark Asncombe, the head coach, is not short of options, either, but neither is his opposite number, Jim Mallinder, which is the crucial aspect to all of this.
Northampton were badly hit with injuries in October, and their only home defeat of the season to Saracens came after Courtney Lawes and Dylan Hartley limped off in the first half. With November international call-ups coach Jim Mallinder has been shorn of his brightest stars but England players Ben Foden, Dylan Hartley, Tom Wood and Courtney Lawes all are available, as is Samoan international George Pisi.
It is the first time this season that Mallinder has had all his internationals fit and the coach even admitted to having that rare luxury of a selection headache this week. Lee Dickson is ready to fire after a short cameo off the bench in last weekend's 27-16 victory over Sale and it could be a long trip back for the 2,000 fans said to be crossing the Irish Sea.
The Heineken Cup is littered with rousing rivalries down the years and Clermont and Leinster bid to etch another chapter in the annals with their back-to-back clashes, staring in the Auvergne on Sunday.
There is scarcely a better double-header over the next fortnight and while the hype is likely to be justified, I cannot see a points-fest materialising.
Clermont have the second-best defence in the Top 14, conceding only 15 tries in their 12 matches so far this season. Such is the discipline coursing through the Auvergnat squad that they have had only 31 penalty goals scored against them, which is by some distance the best record in France.
It means that Leinster are going to have to eke out every single point the hard way and looking back at the six-match history between the two sides you would have been safe going short at 37 in the total points market.
Recommended investments:
2pts Northampton to win at 1.78
2pts unders in the total points market at anything down to 37.

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