Friday 20 April 2018

Leinster to host Saracens in heavyweight last-eight battle

Donnacha Ryan put in another huge shift for Racing and made a match-winning tackle at the death that resulted in a turnover penalty to clinch the win in Leicester. Photo: Sportsfile
Donnacha Ryan put in another huge shift for Racing and made a match-winning tackle at the death that resulted in a turnover penalty to clinch the win in Leicester. Photo: Sportsfile
Cian Tracey

Cian Tracey

Leinster's reward for winning all six of their pool games and finishing as number one seeds is a mouth-watering quarter-final clash with defending champions Saracens.

The Premiership side - who are chasing their third Champions Cup title in-a-row after hammering Northampton 62-14 on Saturday - will travel to Dublin on Easter weekend for what promises to be an epic battle between two of Europe's heavyweights.

Leinster have already confirmed that their last-eight clash will be at the Aviva Stadium with tickets set to go on sale on February 6 at 10am.

The three-time champions hammered Wasps in the Aviva at the same stage of last year's tournament and will be looking for a similar result against English opposition.

Leinster, and Johnny Sexton in particular, made no secret of their desire to have a crack at Saracens last year and 12 months later, they will get their wish.

Should they beat Sarries and Scarlets see off La Rochelle, Leinster will also have home advantage for their semi-final.

If, however, the Top 14 outfit overturn the PRO14 champions in Wales, Leinster will be on the road to France.

That also means that they can only potentially meet old foes Munster in May's decider in Bilbao.

Johann van Graan's men will fancy their chances at home to three-time winners Toulon, who are not the force they once were but are still stacked with quality. Toulon missed out on the chance to have home advantage after they were beaten by the Scarlets in a cracking contest on Saturday evening.

Munster will be looking to exact revenge for their 2014 semi-final defeat to the big-spending Toulon who went on to win the title four years ago.

Regardless of who comes out on top when Clermont host Racing, Munster know that any potential semi-final would be played in France. Donnacha Ryan put in another huge shift for Racing and made a match-winning tackle at the death that resulted in a turnover penalty to clinch the win in Leicester.

Having been outstanding in Racing's win over Munster, Ryan could come up against his home province again.

Munster-bound Tadhg Beirne also maintained his remarkable form when he drove the Scarlets to their crucial win over Toulon which books them a date with La Rochelle.

Two teams who love playing with ball in hand, that also promises to be a pulsating contest.

Ulster's meagre performance against Wasps saw them plummet from top spot in their pool to third as they were dumped out.

Meanwhile, Connacht will have home advantage in their Challenge Cup quarter-final when they welcome Gloucester to the Sportsground.

Should Kieran Keane's side overcome David Humphreys's men, they will take on the winners of the clash between Newcastle and Brive.

Champions Cup quarter-finals: Leinster v Saracens, Scarlets v La Rochelle, Munster v Toulon, Clermont Auvergne v Racing 92. Ties to be played on March 30/31 & April 1.

Semi-finals: Leinster/Saracens v Scarlets/La Rochelle, Munster/Toulon v Clermont/Racing.

Irish Independent

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