After an interesting opening pool phase schedule, we have our sixteen teams that will head for the playoffs. Several superb ties scheduled here.
Toulouse have ended up as a seventh seed. They probably had hearts in mouth when Castres looked like winners at the Stoop heading into the last minutes of their fixture with Harlequins.
Ulster Rugby’s reward for going 4/4 in the pool phase is a two legged playoff against the reigning European Cup champions who could be motivated even further to retain their crown given their walkover (reluctantly) to Cardiff Blues yesterday.
Local derby games grab the main headlines here. Racing 92 vs. Stade Francais. La Rochelle vs. Bordeaux-Begles. Leinster Rugby vs. Connacht Rugby. Massive fixtures for all those involved. The one week turnaround will be interesting. The better squad depth charts here should have an advantage.
La Rochelle vs. Bordeaux-Begles is a monster fixture. Bordeaux-Begles also side whose seeding is misleading given their final fixture walkover to Leicester Tigers. Bordeaux-Begles have the pack and attacking play to seriously unsettle La Rochelle who are coming into form as well. A monster heavyweight challenge!
Racing 92 vs. Stade Francais. The classic Parisian derby here. Racing 92 have the talent to win this fixture round but nothing like a derby game to throw the form book out the window. Racing 92 need to box clever on this fixture so their approach on the away leg will be fascinating. Stade Francais showed today against Connacht Rugby that they have the players to punish any opposition indiscipline.
Leinster Rugby have looked the part in the last two rounds but you would have to ask a few questions of Montpellier and Bath Rugby performance. Leo Cullen’s men face down Connacht Rugby whose attacking play is superb but the pack issues and squad depth issues in the front row hopefully are addressed before this fixture in April.
Munster Rugby looking at a tie against Exeter Chiefs. I don’t want to say it but I will. It looks like an arm wrestle. Expect tactical kicking and territorial battle central. Both sides look evenly matched. 50/50 call here. It will go down to the wire.
Harlequins face Montpellier whose interest in this competition seems to have revived after a stirring win over Exeter Chiefs tonight. Harlequins have shown massive attacking intent during this pool phase but they do give opposition chances to score tries. Castres perhaps unlucky not to win at the Stoop on Friday night.
Bristol Bears and Sale Sharks in a Gallagher Premiership fixture here. Bears were offloading for fun at Scarlets last night. Sale Sharks professionally dispatched Ospreys today. It is an interesting fixture. Yet another 50/50 fixture. Roll on April!
Leicester Tigers and ASM Clermont is the last pairing here. An intriguing fixture. ASM Clermont for sixty minutes against Ulster Rugby were pretty lethargic but then burst into life when Lopes and Penaud came on the park. Tigers will be on high alert here but their pack platform and ability to win games could be pivotal in the final outcome!