We’re in for a thrilling instalment of Champions Cup quarter-final action with Europe’s big guns all looking to secure passage to the semi-finals.
Image Copyright – Steve Haag Sports
La Rochelle v Sale SharksSaturday 10 April
Stade Marcel Delfrandre
To Win (80 Mins)La Rochelle 4/10
We start things off with a French-Anglo affair as Top 14 side La Rochelle play host to Manchester outfit, the Sale Sharks.
The hosts are having a great time of it domestically this term and currently sit second on the Top 14 ladder with 14 wins from the 20 games they have played thus far. They carried their solid domestic form into the Champions Cup play-offs last week as they beat English club Gloucester 16-27.
Sale are also enjoying a good run of things in their domestic competition with the Sharks currently occupying in third place on the standings having won 10 of their 15 fixtures. They’ve claimed some big scalps over the past few weeks. They beat the Exeter Chiefs 25-20 in the Gallagher Premiership and followed this up by hammering PRO14 side, the Scarlets, 14-57 in the last weekend’s first set of Champions Cup knock-out fixtures.
Verdict: Sale 43/20I really fancy the visitors here. They showed great composure on attack last weekend, and if they can produce a similar performance here, I can see them claiming a spot in the semi-finals.
Exeter Chiefs v LeinsterSaturday 10 April
To Win (80 Mins)Exeter 21/20
We’ve got an absolute belter next up as Anglo-Irish rivalries will be renewed when reigning PRO14 champions Leinster take on reigning Champions Cup and Gallagher Premiership holders, the Exeter Chiefs.
Leinster had a fantastic domestic season winning the PRO14 at a canter, crusing to victory in the final against their arch-rivals Muster. The Chiefs have been a bit more circumspect in the English top tier as they are currently 12 points adrift of log-leading, Bristol Bears, and have only won 10 of the 15 domestic fixtures this season.
In terms of last weekend’s results, Leinester’s game with Toulon was called off due to COVID worries, with the Irish side handed the win by default. While Leinester were gifted a win, Exeter had to do it the hard way as they beat Lyon 47-25.
Verdict: Exeter 21/20I think the Chiefs may just catch this Leinster side a bit cold as the visitors haven’t kicked a ball in anger in over a fortnight.
Bordeaux Begles v Racing Metro 92Sunday 11 April
To Win (80 Mins)
Our penultimate game is the first of two all-French affairs as the Bordeaux Begles square off with Racing 92 in Sunday’s opener.
The two sides are enjoying decent campaigns on the domestic front with Racing currently lying third on the Top 14 ladders, while Bordeaux are six points behind their rivals in fifth place.
The hosts have endured some rather patchy form of late losing two of their last four matches. Racing have experienced an identical run of form losing two of their last four. They had actually lost back to back fixtures before they snapped this streak with last weekend’s 56-3 win over Edinburgh in the Champions Cup Round of 16.
The two sides have already met once this year with Bordeuax edging an absolute thriller in Paris 32-33.
Verdict: Bordeaux 27/20
Bordeaux are a very strong side at home and I can see them scraping a narrow win here. I reckon we’ll get points here as well.
Clermont v Toulouse
Sunday 11 April
Parc Des Marcel Michellin
To Win (80 Mins)Clermont 31/20
The quarter-finals come to a close with a colossal all-French clash as Clermont will play host to Toulouse.
Toulouse are currently riding high in the Top 14 and are at the summit of the ladder, seven points clear of Clermont who are in fourth place.
The visitors have been a dominant force in their domestic competition winning 14 and drawing one of their 20 fixtures. They have endured some patchy form over the past month or so losing two of their last five fixtures.
Clermont have been in better touch recently winning four of their last five fixtures. They were highly impressive last weekend as they came back to beat Wasps 25-27 in Coventry. Toulouse also staged a comeback as they toppled Irish outfit Munster 33-40.
Verdict: Toulouse 57/100
This should be the best game of the round as both sides possess extremely talented squads. My money is on the visitors taking the spoils by the smallest of margins.