European Challenge Cup - teams and predictions
QUARTERFINALS: Premiership rivals square-off in two of the four matches in the second-tier European competition’s last-eight stages.
It starts when Bath host London Irish at The Rec on Friday.
On Saturday Leicester Tigers are at home to the Newcastle Falcons.
The other two quarterfinal clashes will see Montpellier host Benetton and Northampton Saints at home to Ulster.
It’s will be the first time Bath and the Exiles clash in European competition, but both will be heading into their last-eight contest full of confidence after enthralling victories in the Round of 16.
The hosts battled back from a 7-21 deficit early in their contest against Italian outfit Zebre, before scoring three second-half tries to earn their passage to the quarterfinals.
Meanwhile, London Irish needed a last gasp try to defeat Cardiff Blues 41-35 in an all-time classic at the Brentford Community Stadium.
Bath centre Max Clark reckons the English club will need to be “a whole lot better” against the Exiles if they are to reach the semifinals.
Bath trailed 0-14 after only 10 minutes at Zebre and then 7-21, but twice fought back to win 35-27 in Italy.
“We’re in the quarterfinals and it’s another chance of silverware,” Clark said.
“It wasn’t perfect – in fact, it was far from pretty. We’ll call it one of the ugly wins. But it’s knockout rugby and we’re on to the next stage and that’s the main thing.”
The Bridgend-born 25-year-old is delighted that Bath now have a home game against the Irish at the Recreation Ground as they bid to make the last four of the competition for the first time since 2016/17.
“It’s a shame the fans aren’t there, but it’s massive for us,” he added.
“We’ll take what we can from last weekend, but we’ve got to be a whole lot better.”
* (Article continues below video …)
* Meanwhile, Newcastle Falcons Director of Rugby Dean Richards warned Leicester Tigers that his side “will be giving it everything” when they meet at Welford Road on Saturday.
The Falcons showed how much the competition means to them in their Round of 16 clash in Wales last weekend, when they rallied from 0-14 down to Ospreys at the Liberty Stadium to triumph 28-24.
“We gave the Ospreys a little too much respect in the first 20 minutes and Justin Tipuric had an absolute field day during that period,” Richards told the club website.
“After that, we decided to put our heads where it hurt for the remainder of the game and really take it to them.
“The final 10 minutes of the first half and the opening five of the second half saw us totally dominant, resulting in two yellow cards and three tries, and we kicked on from there.
“Sometimes people are just a little bit in awe and there’s no need to be, because I think we’ve got some really good players who are incredibly competitive.
“I hope they can take some belief from knowing they can do it against boys like that. There’s no reason why we can’t do it on a more regular basis and maybe this is the catalyst for that belief to take a real hold.
“The Challenge Cup is an important competition for us and you know me – I just want us to go as far as possible.
“We’ll have another good test next weekend and we’ll be giving it everything.”
All the quarterfinal teams and predictions!
Friday, April 9
Bath v London Irish
(Recreation Ground – Kick-off: 20.00; 19.00 GMT)
@rugby365com: Bath by 16 points
Bath: 15 Anthony Watson, 14 Joe Cokanasiga, 13 Jonathan Joseph, 12 Cameron Redpath, 11 Ruaridh McConnochie, 10 Orlando Bailey, 9 Ben Spencer, 8 Zach Mercer, 7 Josh Bayliss, 6 Taulupe Faletau, 5 Charlie Ewels (captain), 4 Josh McNally, 3 Will Stuart, 2 Jack Walker, 1 Beno Obano.
Replacements: 16 Jacques du Toit, 17 Juan Schoeman, 18 Henry Thomas, 19 Mike Williams, 20 Miles Reid, 21 Will Chudley, 22 Max Clark , 23 Alex Gray.
London Irish: 15 Tom Parton, 14 Ben Loader, 13 Theo Brophy Clews, 12 Terrence Hepetema, 11 Ollie Hassell-Collins, 10 Paddy Jackson, 9 Nick Phipps, 8 Albert Tuisue, 7 Blair Cowan, 6 Matt Rogerson (captain), 5 Rob Simmons, 4 George Nott, 3 Lovejoy Chawatama, 2 Agustin Creevy, 1 Facundo Gigena.
Replacements: 16 Matt Cornish, 17 Harry Elrington, 18 Oliver Hoskins, 19 Chunya Munga, 20 Ben Donnell, 21 Sean O’Brien, 22 Ben Meehan, 23 James Stokes.
Referee: Frank Murphy (Ireland)
Assistant referees: Anthony Woodthorpe (England), Phil Watters (England)
TMO: Ben Whitehouse (Wales)
Saturday, April 10
Leicester Tigers v Newcastle Falcons
(Mattioli Woods Welford Road – Kick-off: 12.30; 11.30 GMT)
@rugby365com: Leicester Tigers by 11 points
Leicester: 15 Freddie Steward, 14 Harry Potter, 13 Matias Moroni, 12 Matt Scott, 11 Kini Murimurivalu, 10 Johnny McPhillips, 9 Richard Wigglesworth (captain), 8 Hanro Liebenberg, 7 Tommy Reffell, 6 George Martin, 5 Cameron Henderson, 4 Harry Wells, 3 Joe Heyes, 2 Charlie Clare, 1 Luan de Bruin.
Replacements: 16 Tom Youngs, 17 Ellis Genge, 18 Dan Cole, 19 Tomas Lavanini, 20 Jasper Wiese, 21 Jack van Poortvliet, 22 George Ford, 23 Dan Kelly.
Newcastle: 15 Tom Penny, 14 George Wacokecoke, 13 Matias Orlando, 12 Peter Lucock, 11 Ben Stevenson, 10 Brett Connon, 9 Micky Young, 8 Callum Chick, 7 Mark Wilson (captain), 6 Will Welch, 5 Sean Robinson, 4 Greg Peterson, 3 Logovi’i Mulipola, 2 George McGuigan, 1 Trevor Davison.
Replacements: 16 Jamie Blamire, 17 Kyle Cooper, 18 Mark Tampin, 19 Rob Farrar, 20 Gary Graham, 21 Louis Schreuder, 22 Joel Matavesi, 23 Cooper Vuna.
Referee: Romain Poite (France)
Assistant referees: Wayne Barnes (England), Craig Maxwell-Keys (England)
TMO: Denis Grenouillet (France)
Northampton Saints v Ulster
(Franklin’s Gardens – Kick-off: 20.00; 19.00 GMT)
@rugby365com: Northampton Saints by 12 points
Northampton: 15 Tommy Freeman, 14 Ollie Sleightholme, 13 Rory Hutchinson, 12 Piers Francis, 11 Taqele Naiyaravoro, 10 Dan Biggar, 9 Alex Mitchell, 8 Teimana Harrison, 7 Lewis Ludlam, 6 Nick Isiekwe, 5 Alex Coles, 4 David Ribbans, 3 Paul Hill, 2 Sam Matavesi, 1 Alex Waller (captain).
Replacements: 16 Mikey Haywood, 17 Nick Auterac, 18 Ehren Painter, 19 Alex Moon, 20 Tom Wood, 21 Tom James, 22 Ahsee Tuala, 23 Fraser Dingwall.
Ulster: 15 Michael Lowry, 14 Rob Baloucoune, 13 James Hume, 12 Stuart McCloskey, 11 Jacob Stockdale, 10 Billy Burns, 9 John Cooney, 8 Nick Timoney, 7 Jordi Murphy (captain), 6 Sean Reidy, 5 Kieran Treadwell, 4 Alan O’Connor, 3 Marty Moore, 2 Rob Herring, 1 Eric O’Sullivan.
Replacements: 16 John Andrew, 17 Andy Warwick, 18 Tom O’Toole, 19 Cormac Izuchukwu, 20 Matt Rea, 21 Alby Mathewson, 22 Ian Madigan, 23 Ethan McIlroy.
Referee: Alexandre Ruiz (France)
Assistant referees: Jack Makepeace (England), Jonathan Healy (England)
TMO: Patrick Dellac (France)
Montpellier v Benetton
(Stade Yves-du-Manoir – Kick-off: 21.00; 21.00 Italian time; 19.00 GMT)
@rugby365com: Montpellier by 17 points
Montpellier: 15 Anthony Bouthier, 14 Julien Tisseron, 13 Paul Vallée, 12 Yvan Reilhac, 11 Gabriel N’gandebe, 10 Alex Lozowski, 9 Benoit Paillaugue, 8 Caleb Timu, 7 Samuel Maximin, 6 Fulgence Ouedraogo (captain), 5 Paul Willemse, 4 Bastien Chalureau, 3 Titi Lamositele, 2 Youri Delhommel, 1 Enzo Forletta.
Replacements: 16 Bismarck du Plessis, 17 Robert Rodgers, 18 Antoine Guillamon, 19 Tyler Duguid, 20 Yacouba Camara, 21 Cobus Reinach, 22 Vincent Martin, 23 Martin Devergie.
Benetton: 15 Jayden Hayward, 14 Angelo Esposito, 13 Juan Ignacio Brex, 12 Luca Morisi, 11 Monty Ioane, 10 Paolo Garbisi, 9 Dewaldt Duvenage (captain), 8 Toa Halafihi, 7 Michele Lamaro, 6 Sebastian Negri, 5 Eli Snyman, 4 Ira Herbst, 3 Tiziano Pasquali, 2 Corniel Els, 1 Nicola Quaglio.
Replacements: 16 Gianmarco Lucchesi, 17 Thomas Gallo, 18 Ivan Nemer, 19 Niccolò Cannone, 20 Federico Ruzza, 21 Manuel Zuliani, 22 Luca Petrozzi, 23 Tommaso Allan.
Referee: Karl Dickson (England)
Assistant referees: Maxime Chalon (France), Laurent Cardona (France)
TMO: Trevor Fisher (England)