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Tigers stand in way as Blues chase €3m bonanza

LEINSTER have been installed as Heineken Cup favourites following yesterday's quarter-final and semi-final draws. Joe Schmidt's men host Leicester Tigers in the last eight, with another home match in the last four if they make it through.

Given the likelihood of Leinster, who qualified as second seeds, switching from the 18,000-capacity RDS to Lansdowne Road, which holds 50,000, there is the opportunity of a €3m windfall if Schmidt's troops make the last four of the competition.

The quarter-final will see Leinster captain Leo Cullen and flanker Shane Jennings lock horns with their old Leicester team-mates, with the Irish province now 9/4 favourites to land their second trophy and the Tigers fourth favourites at 6/1.

Unbeaten Northampton, who qualified as No 1 seeds, host Ulster in the last eight and are second favourites at 7/2. Brian McLaughlin's team, who will contest their first quarter-final since the 1998/99 season, are rated 14/1 outsiders for the title.

"We're not sure if the game will be at Franklin's Gardens or a bigger venue. They have a strong home record at the Gardens, but their fans will make any trip for us a challenging prospect," said UIster director of rugby David Humphreys.

The other quarter-finals are all-French affairs, with Perpignan at home to Toulon and last season's beaten finalists Biarritz chasing revenge against champions Toulouse. The winner of the Northampton-Ulster clash will have home advantage in the semi-final against the winner of Perpignan-Toulon, while Leinster would go up against Biarritz or Toulouse if they advance.

There are two Irish, two English and four French teams in the last eight, with Scotland and Wales, who have never provided a winner of the Heineken Cup, failing to provide a pool qualifier.

Meanwhile, Munster's stunning end-game in Saturday's Heineken Cup dead-rubber against London Irish at Thomond Park sees them travelling to Brive for the Challenge Cup quarter-final. If Tony McGahan's men, who have been made 2/1 favourites to win the competition, clear that hurdle they will have home advantage in the semi-final, where they will take on the winners of Harlequins's clash with Wasps.

Ladbrokes betting -- Heineken Cup: 9/4 Leinster, 7/2 Northampton, 5/1 Toulouse, 6/1 Leicester, 8/1 Perpignan, 12/1 Biarritz, 14/1 Ulster, Toulon.

Amlin Challenge Cup: 2/1 Munster, 3/1 Clermont Auvergne, 9/2 Stade Francias, ; 6/1 Harelquins, 8/1 Montpellier, 12/1 Brive, 16/1 Wasps, 50/1 La Rochelle.

Irish Independent