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Stuart Barnes tips Henry Trinder to thrive for England if picked

Stuart Barnes - Stuart Barnes Posted 15th October 2013 view comments

Saracens and Toulouse offer Europe its first mega match of this Heineken Cup campaign on Friday.

There were tries, shocks and all the usual in Round One but nothing definite happened; nothing that could shed light on the latter stages of the tournament - or at least not obviously.

Where the big-named teams lost they tended to lose away and earn the bonus points to keep them very much in contention for pool winning. Leicester, Northampton and Clermont all fell within that category.

Henry Trinder: Barnes' pick to step up for England

Henry Trinder: Barnes' pick to step up for England

If any side produced a performance of substance it was probably to be found at the Liberty Stadium, Swansea, where Leinster were very professional and eked out an away win whilst depriving the Ospreys of anything at home.

Ospreys are on the brink of elimination if they lose at Franklins Gardens and, as Alun-Wyn Jones said post-match, if they play anywhere near that performance they will lose.

Stuart Lancaster is never going to be quite as bold as we media types and I understand why but come on, Stuart, have a look at Henry Trinder as a 13.

Stuart Barnes
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But as good as Leinster were, with the Saints and Castres still to be negotiated at home and away, they are a long way from making a substantial step towards the knockout stages, let alone carving themselves the all-important home tie.

Chance

At Wembley, Saracens v Toulouse has the chance to do just that. Saracens have overcome the Friday night potential pitfall of Galway and with Zebre and the Irish team to face in Barnet are set fair for a harvest of points - enough to almost guarantee a knockout spot if they win Friday night.

If they can maximise their points and minimise those of Toulouse they will take a step towards that home tie. This fixture is one of those games, like those in Castres and Ulster, where the result is only part of the story.

Heineken Cups are rarely won by unbeatable teams at the pool stage but by those that craftily grab for every available point. Munster are the past masters to such an extent that a traumatic defeat in Edinburgh will not be seen as the blow the rest of Europe probably sees it as.

Toulouse raced to their four tries and bonus point at home to Zebre. They were not about to risk a complacent low-key winning performance where they lost a single available point.

The four-times champions have an awkward away date with Pat Lam's men but given the quality of their squad it would be a severe shock if they failed to match Saracens and win. If they get a bonus point they get a tiny edge on the race for top spot and what appears nailed on as a home quarter final.

Which brings us back to Friday; should Saracens win four match points to nil, the pressure is on Toulouse for the rest of the competition. However, it is the sort of pressure they can handle. A 5-0 tally would put Saracens into a fabulous position with home advantage beckoning unless they and Toulouse do something exceptional, the one bad the other good.

Flip it around and Toulouse will probably regard an away bonus point and four for Saracens as a result they are capable of turning around in round five (although deep winter has implications for the try scoring power of either team). An away win and Saracens will need the European performance of their lives in Toulouse to regain their grip on the pool and their hopes of a home quarter final.

This is a pool where top seeding beckons. The likelihood of more than one defeat for the eventual winners is slim and with five wins almost always comes a home tie and to be seeded one to four is statistically an odds-on chance of reaching the semis. When a team gets as far as the semis, anything is possible.

It would be a surprise if both these teams fail to qualify but that doesn't negate the importance of Wembley Friday night. This is a pool where the road to Cardiff is a multi-lane highway for the one that takes their opportunities against the other.

Casting the eye briefly back to last week, plaudits to the Scarlets, who have this habit of not looking like tournament winners but looking like everyone's second team due to the style they produce. They were everyone's team at the Stoop. Plaudits for the way Jimmy Gopperth stepped into Johnny Sexton's boots in Swansea and plaudits for Exeter's first half against Cardiff Blues.

The brickbats are not as plentiful but let's aim one in the direction of the Auvergne. Clermont is the rugby team for whom the term 'bottled' is most appropriate. For the first ten minutes, they were so good against Racing Metro on Sunday night that you wanted to bottle the performance and replay it over and over. For the next seventy minutes, they reverted to simply 'bottling' as they have managed to do so often in their history that one can only admire the heroic fortitude of their colourful fans.

Selection

Away from Europe, England's squad is named for the Autumn. I would love to see a 2015 potential pick in the shape of George Ford but I don't expect it. I do expect something with a little more flair and long term potential to try and fill the hole in the midfield.

Stuart Lancaster is never going to be quite as bold as we media types and I understand why but come on, Stuart, have a look at Henry Trinder as a 13. In a poor Gloucester team he has looked exquisitely sharp. Could it be Twelvetrees and Trinder for Australia? I am hoping so. He's my outside bet for the squad.

Stuart answers your emails...

Got a question for Stuart? Email him at skysportsclub@bskyb.com or use the feedback form below...

Morning Stuart, do you think that Clermont Auvergne need someone with a stronger mentality at 10 if they want to fulfil their potential? I am a big fan of Brock James but feel that he has not got that big match temperament to make a difference in the games that really matter. Mick Leslie

STUART REPLIES: Mick, a technical dream but a temperamental nightmare...James epitomises a team I am starting to both love and loathe.

Stuart, what is wrong with the Ospreys and with Cardiff Blues? They are two sides just brimming with talent and stars but were outplayed in their opening round games - granted the Ospreys were playing against Leinster but they were bigged up as the team to beat this year. As for Cardiff, well that first 40 minutes against Exeter was just woeful - or were Exeter that good? Grant Sochen

STUART REPLIES: Grant, lots of players but never a clear shape. The tactical acumen of the team has to be brought into question. Leinster were as obvious to read as Ospreys were impossible and that made all the difference.

Stuart, should we be concerned watching Toulon dismantle the leading team in the Rabo Direct? I know Toulon are jam-packed with superstars but what does that say about this league? Stephen Evans

STUART REPLIES: Stephen, two points here. Why be CONCERNED? We want to see imaginative rugby to get that pulse racing from whoever has the guts to emerge from the conservatism that has long swamped most of this Hemisphere's rugby. It dear old Bernard Laporte is finally getting the message then something good is going on within the game. Two, Glasgow are top of the league at present in the RABO but that is not the same as the leading team. PS Thought they showed great pluck and angles in the second half but the first half would not have happened had Leinster been the opposition.

Stuart, do you think Dave Ewers could be on Stuart Lancaster's radar - I know he's Zimbabwean but I think he is eligible for England? He's been in fine form and I think he could really add something to the England backrow. On that note I didn't think Tom Johnson was superb against Cardiff on Sunday too.Will O'Connor

STUART REPLIES: Did or didn't in the case of Tom Johnson? Will, As for Dave Ewers, yes, he is on the radar and could slide into contention for the Six Nations.

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