Back Castres to edge Saints

  • By: Reece Killworth
  • Last Updated: October 18 2012, 21:46 BST

Our Rugby Union tipster Reece Killworth is in fine form this season and he's backing Castres to beat Northampton.

Antonie Claassen can help Castres to victory

The second weekend of Heineken Cup matches get under way with Castres hosting Northampton on Friday night - and I'm siding with the home side.

Now anyone reflecting solely on last week's Pool Four results may well think I'm well on the way towards losing my marbles.

After all, following Castres opening their campaign with a 41-17 defeat at Ulster, over 40 hours later Saints scrapped to victory over Glasgow.

But there's a couple of key words amidst that sentence that are worth closer analysis to give a better indication of why I'm favouring Castres this weekend.

The first is the word 'at' - Castres, like most French teams are pretty ropey travellers; indeed you have to go back to the 2007/8 pool stages for the last time they won on away soil against a non-Italian team (they beat Rovigo in 2009/10 but the 76-11 scoreline suggest that wasn't exactly a contest!).

In front of their own fans they are an entirely different beast, though, with 17 victories in their last 26 European games at home. They've also won all four of their home matches in the Top 14 so far this season, with traditional heavyweights Biarritz and Clermont Auvergne among their scalps.

The time lapse between last week's two games is also worth revisiting - while Castres kicked off at 2000 GMT on Friday and therefore had the whole weekend to rest, Northampton's game was a 1245 kick-off on Sunday.

Saints director of rugby Jim Mallinder even referenced that in his post-match comments, saying: "I don't think it is quite right that Castres have got seven days to recover from their game two days ago, and we've got just five and having to travel to France as well."

He's right, of course, and it certainly doesn't make for a level playing field, so it's perhaps surprising Mallinder has made just one tweak to his side.

Castres, meanwhile, have made a plethora of changes with the inclusion of the destructive Joe Tekori (who started at Ravenhill on the bench) a pretty clear sign that they're taking this one very seriously - and why wouldn't they?

Northampton are good travellers in the Heineken Cup - or have been of late, at least with four wins from their last six - but they did lose to Castres last season (having beaten them on the road 12 months earlier).

But though they've got an excellent record so far this season (P6 W5 in the Premiership), they're yet to really string a full 80-minute performance together.

Of course, the worry is that Friday night is the night they do it, but with the extra rest Castres have had, the fact they're in front of their own fans - albeit the game has been moved to Toulouse - and the message they've sent out with their team selection, it's the French side who get the call.

For handicap backers, you can get Castres -3 at Evens with Sportingbet but for me the better bet is Castres to win by 1-12pts.

I'm not expecting them to run away with things against a powerful Northampton side (and therefore am happy to 'lose' wins of over 12 points) and by backing in this winning margin market we also get one and two-point Castres wins thrown in along with the handicap victories, with the price boosted to 7/4.


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