Heineken Champions Cup: Premiership and Top 14 high-fliers face off

Damian Penaud, Chris Ashton, Marcus Smith and Zach Mercer
Damian Penaud, Chris Ashton, Marcus Smith and Zach Mercer are among the many headline stars within the Champions Cup final 16

Vacation spot Marseille. The highway to the Champions Cup ultimate begins to accentuate with extra Anglo-French hostilities within the final 16.

France have been topped males’s Six Nations champions after beating England in March, and the 2 sides are on a collision course for the title within the ladies’s match.

Might the Champions Cup show to be an extension of ‘Le Crunch’?

BBC Sport takes a take a look at two key ties within the knockout levels of Europe’s premier membership competitors.

When are the video games and who stays?

The Champions Cup last-16 first-leg video games will happen over this weekend with the return legs scheduled for 15-17 April.

The 4 highest-ranked golf equipment in every pool – Racing, Ulster, La Rochelle, Leinster, Leicester, Harlequins, Munster and Bristol – may have dwelling benefit within the second-leg matches.

It’s the first time {that a} two-leg format has been deployed within the final 16 with contests determined by combination scores.

If groups are degree on factors on the finish of the second leg, additional time can be performed. If the groups nonetheless can’t be break up on the scoreboard, then the variety of tries scored within the contest and, lastly, a place-kick competitors would be the tie-breaker.

Right here is the last-16 first-leg line-up:

Stade Francais v Racing 92

Toulouse v Ulster

Bordeaux-Begles v La Rochelle

Connacht v Leinster

Sale v Bristol

Exeter v Munster

Montpellier v Harlequins

Clermont v Leicester

English champions face French leaders

Danny Care
Harlequins come into the weekend on the again of a 41-14 win away to London Irish

“I can’t wait to get out there,” Harlequins scrum-half Danny Care advised Rugby Union Weekly about his workforce’s journey to Montpellier.

The English champions tackle the French Top 14 leaders in a mouth-watering tie. And, with restrictions on journey from England to France eased, Quins are crossing the Channel with a wholesome backing.

“I think we are taking over 1,000 fans so it should be an amazing atmosphere,” added Care.

“It feels like forever since we have gone away and had a big Champions Cup knockout trip at a European powerhouse.

“They’re completely flying of their home league so it’ll be powerful.”

Quins may be making their first appearance in the knockout stages of the competition since 2013, but they won every pool game with some late drama en route.

With the clock in the red, they recovered to beat Castres by three points as Alex Dombrandt completed a hat-trick of tries in front of a partisan Stoop.

That followed reeling in Cardiff, who were 14 points clear in the second half, to snatch victory the weekend before.

Montpellier beat Quins in the 2016 Challenge Cup final, and they will be out to inflict another defeat on the English champions.

Among their squad is Zach Mercer, who has been a big hit in France since leaving Bath last summer.

The 24-year-old won his most recent England cap in the win over Japan in November 2018, but is a key part of a pack that also includes France internationals Paul Willemse, Guilhem Guirado and Mohamed Haouas.

Runaway Premiership leaders against the nearly men

Leicester Tigers have been in the groove in the Premiership this season – leading the table by 12 points after winning 17 of their 20 games.

That type has additionally been transferred into Europe with an ideal document within the pool levels, which additionally included the award of a 28-0 win over Bordeaux-Begles after a Covid outbreak among the French side forced the cancellation of their meeting.

Leicester lifted the trophy in consecutive years in 2001 and 2002, as well as losing in the final to Wasps in 2007, but this will be their first appearance in the knockout stages since reaching the semi-finals in 2016.

They take on three-time runners-up Clermont Auvergne – and one Tiger who knows his way around a French defence is Chris Ashton.

The winger scored 24 tries – a Top 14 document for a single marketing campaign – throughout his time with Toulon.

Stade Marcel-Michelin(*14*)Clermont followers’ pleasure and ardour make Stade Marcel-Michelin a formidable place to play

“The Stade Marcel-Michelin a tremendous place to play,” he mentioned.

“There should not many higher locations in Europe to play rugby.”

Leicester captain Ellis Genge agrees.

“Their followers, their ardour, I’m throughout that,” he mentioned.

“It jogs my memory of our dwelling floor. I like it. I believe it’s wonderful. What a stadium, and I can not wait to recover from there and become involved.”

Clermont have had a disappointing season by their standards, sitting eighth in their domestic table, but in France winger Damian Penaud, who finished the Six Nations as joint-top try scorer, they have a real threat.

Former All Black centre George Moala, Penaud’s international team-mate Alivereti Raka and Japan’s Kotaro Matsushima also feature in a dangerous backline.

Champions Cup last-16 matches (all occasions BST)

Friday, 8 April

Connacht v Leinster (20:00)

Saturday, 9 April

Sale Sharks v Bristol Bears (13:00)

Bordeaux-Begles v La Rochelle (13:00)

Toulouse v Ulster (15:15)

Exeter v Munster (17:30)

Stade Francais v Racing 92 (17:30)

Sunday, 10 April

Montpellier v Harlequins (13:00)

Clermont Auvergne v Leicester (15:15)

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