Munster: Look in decent nick in the PRO14 and Thomond Park is still a considerable citadel, but they have the trickiest of starts away to Castres who are always formidable at Stade Pierre Antoine. If the Munstermen can manufacture a victory in the south of France they will be on their way, a defeat, though, will get Irish nerves jangling. Castres: Deliciously unknown quality. Mercurial by any standards but with the likes of Alex Telou and Rory Kockott they are capable of big upset wins against anybody and to an extent dodging the Castres bullet could be key in this pool. Difficult to make a case for them progressing but will damage somebody else’s ambitions. Racing 92: Boast a powerful squad by any standards. Losing finalists in 2016 but underperformed badly in Europe last season, and owner Jackie Lorenzetti will be demanding they rectify that. Dan Carter, Juan Imhoff and Leone Nakarawa want to be playing in the knockout stages as does Donnacha Ryan, their summer signing from Munster who will bring some welcome European nous.
Leicester: Have the firepower in the backs to test the best defences in Europe. The prospect of Telusa Veainu, Matt Toomua, below, George Ford and Jonny May all clicking in unison is one to ponder. Tigers, except for that trouncing by Glasgow last season, also remain incredibly difficult to beat at Welford Road – but have they got the pack to boss big European games? Verdict: A real pot pourri of a pool with the presence off two French sides adding to its unpredictability. I’m taking Tigers to bare their teeth again and finish top with Castres finishing bottom but playing a decisive role in turning over a couple of teams. That leaves Racing and Munster grappling for a possible best runners-up spot. Racing by a whisker. Predicted standings: 1 Leicester (Q); 2 Racing 92 (Q); 3 Munster; 4 Castres