Champions Cup Quarter Finals – Some Key Facts You Need To Know As European Rugby Returns
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European rugby returns this weekend with four absolutely cracking Heineken Champions Cup fixtures to look forward to.
Up first it’s a repeat of last year’s final with the last two winners of the competition set to go head-to-head when Leinster meet Saracens in the undisputed tie of the round.
It’s the third time Leinster and Saracens have met in the knockout stages in as many years with each of them going to win it in the last two years and it’s hard to see past the winner of this game going on to lift the cup this season too.
Leinster have qualified as the No. 1 ranked club from the pool stage for just the second time in their history. The last time they did this was when they won the competition in 2018.
Up next then is an all-French affair when Clermont meet Racing 92. The only time ASM Clermont Auvergne lost a home quarter-final match was in 2018 against Racing 92 who are back at Stade Marcel-Michelin on Saturday looking for a repeat of that impressive 28-17 success.
Virimi Vakatawa of Racing 92 has the highest total of defenders beaten from the pool stage with 39 and will certainly be the man to watch come Saturday.
Sunday then kicks off with Ulster’s trip to France to take on four-time champions Toulouse. Ulster have won one of their four away quarter-finals when they famously defeated Munster 22-16 at Thomond Park in 2012.
Toulouse meanwhile have qualified for the knockout stage for the 18th time, equalling Munster’s tournament record.
The only previous meeting in the knockout stage between Toulouse and Ulster was in Belfast in the 1998/99 season when Ulster pulled off a famous 15-13 quarter-final victory before going on to win the competition. Current Toulouse president, Didier Lacroix, and High-Performance Manager, Jerome Cazalbou, played in the match.
And finally, late on Sunday, Exeter Chiefs host Northampton Saints in the last quarter-final. Exeter and Northampton are going head-to-head for the first time in the tournament. Sunday’s all-Premiership showdown at Sandy Park will be the Chiefs’ second quarter-final appearance and their first at home.
Exeter’s Joe Simmonds has a 93% goalkicking success rate from 27 attempts during his six pool stage appearances and will no doubt play a key role for Rob Baxter’s men.
If selected, Courtney Lawes of Northampton Saints and Exeter’s Ian Whitten will make their 50th tournament appearances on Sunday.
Some other interesting facts to note ahead of this weekend include:
• Home clubs have a 76% success rate in the 92 tournament quarter-finals played to date.
• Leinster’s quarter-final will be the club’s 175th tournament match.
• Racing’s Teddy Thomas, Sam Simmonds of Exeter and Leinster’s Garry Ringrose are this season’s joint top try scorers with six each.
Champions Cup quarter-finals.
Leinster v Saracens (Saturday, 16.00)
Clermont Auvergne v Racing 92 (Saturday, 18.30)
Toulouse v Ulster (Sunday, 13.30)
Exeter v Northampton (Sunday, 18.30)