Stars align in Europe's showcase event
SPOTLIGHT: Europe’s biggest stars will clash this coming weekend in the Champions Cup quarterfinals, with the eight teams left in the competition boasting a total of 13 European Cup titles between them.
The excitement gets underway on Saturday, when two-time winners Munster travel to Pool Five winners Edinburgh at Murrayfield.
The Scottish side lost their opening pool stage match at Montpellier, but went on to notch five successive victories, including two memorable successes against Toulon, as well as a nervy Round Six win over Montpellier in front of a vociferous Edinburgh crowd.
Munster had a similarly tense Round Six clash, having to defeat Exeter Chiefs in order to top Pool 2 and they did just that in a bruising 9-7 triumph.
Flyhalf Joey Carbery won two Man of the Match awards in the pool stages and will surely be one to watch, having totalled 68 points from five matches.
This tie is followed by a Pool Three rematch at Allianz Park, where 2016 and 2017 winners Saracens host Glasgow Warriors.
Saracens came out on top on both occasions when the two sides met in Rounds One and Six, but both teams did the double over Lyon and Cardiff Blues to secure spots in the last eight. Lock Jonny Gray is one to watch for the visitors, having totalled 92 tackles in the pool stages.
Our final tie on Saturday is a clash between two Irish provinces – as defending champions Leinster entertain 1999 champions Ulster at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin.
Despite Toulouse defeating Leinster 28-27 in Round Two, the Irish outfit responded by rattling off four consecutive victories, including a success over their French rivals to top Pool One.
Ulster also endured a dramatic Round Six match, finding themselves 13-0 down against already-eliminated Leicester Tigers and facing a European exit. However, they battled back through tries from wing Robert Baloucoune and prop Marty Moore to seal a best runners-up spot.
Leinster prop Sean Cronin and Ulster wing Jacob Stockdale are currently tied at the top of the try-scoring charts with six scores from as many matches.
The sole Sunday tie is an all-French affair – as 2018 finalists Racing 92 play host to four-time winners and Pool One runners-up Toulouse at Paris La defence Arena.
Five wins from their six pool stage matches saw Racing clinch a home quarterfinal, with two notable victories over Leicester Tigers in the back-to-back matches.
Toulouse also chalked up five wins, but they finished behind Leinster after a 29-13 defeat in Dublin in Round Five.
Toulouse wing Cheslin Kolbe will be one to watch here, having beaten the most defenders (41) in the pool stages, while Racing wings Simon Zebo and Juan Imhoff both have five tries to their name.
Saturday, March 30
Quarterfinal Two: Edinburgh v Munster, Murrayfield (Kick-off: 12.45; 12.45 GMT)
Quarterfinal One: Saracens v Glasgow Warriors, Allianz Park (Kick-off: 15.15; 15.15 GMT)
Quarterfinal Three: Leinster v Ulster, Aviva Stadium (Kick-off: 17.45; 17.45 GMT)
Sunday, March 31
Quarterfinal Four: Racing 92 v Toulouse, Paris La Défense Arena (Kick-off: 16.15; 15.15 GMT)
Semifinal One: Winner of Quarterfinal One will play the winner of Quarterfinal Two
Semifinal Two: Winner of Quarterfinal Three will play the winner of Quarterfinal Four
(Matches to be played on April 20/21)