French clubs again crowd the knock-out stages of Europe’s premier club rugby competition following four of the French Top 14 clubs progressing to the quarter finals of the Heineken Cup.
Both England and Ireland see two of their clubs progress from the group stages, however there are no places for any clubs from Italy, Scotland, or Wales as all the clubs from these countries finished lower down their group tables.
The draw sees top seeds Northampton take on Ulster who progress through as the weakest club remaining. Both sides are former winners of the tournament, Northampton winning in 2000 while Ulster were victors the year prior, in 1999. Ulster booked their place with a 43-6 win over Aironi in Italy to sneak through as one of the best runners up, while Saints won all six of their matches in theirs.
Another two former champions will also meet in the next round as Leinster take on Leicester. Leicester, finding their way into the quarter finals as a best runner up like Ulster, emphatically won their final match 62-16 against Benetton Treviso while Leinster were confortable in their 36-11 away victory over French club Racing Metro ’92. The match will be a close affair, with five times finalists and twice winners Leicester travelling to Ireland to take on the 2009 champions.
The final two fixtures are all French affairs which sees Perpignan taking on Jonny Wilkinson’s Toulon, while the other match-up sees a repeat of last year’s final as Biarritz play Toulouse. Toulouse shaded a close final last year in Paris to win their 21-19 to seal their fourth Heineken Cup triumph.
This season’s match is likely to be just as close as the clubs are ranked as fourth and fifth seeds after Biarritz beat Bath 26-19 to top their group while Toulouse lost to Wasps from a last minute try which saw the two clubs essentially swap places in the seeding table as Wasps won 21-16.
The fixtures for the Amlin European Challenge quarter finals have also been announced and again the French sides dominate with five clubs, while England has two and Ireland one.
The quarter-finals take place over the weekend of 8/9/10 April while the semi-finals will be played on 30 April and 1 May. Both finals will be played in Cardiff with the Heineken Cup at the Millennium Stadium on 21 May while the Amlin Challenge Cup will be played the night before on 20 May at the Cardiff City Stadium.
Heineken Cup quarter-finals:
Northampton v Ulster
Leinster v Leicester
Perpignan v Toulon
Biarritz v Toulouse
Heineken Cup semi-finals:
Leinster or Leicester v Biarritz or Toulouse
Northampton or Ulster v Perpignan or Toulon
Amlin Challenge Cup quarter-finals:
Stade Francais v Montpellier
Brive v Munster
La Rochelle v Clermont Auvergne
Harlequins v Wasps
Amlin Challenge Cup semi-finals:
Stade Francais or Montpellier v La Rochelle or Clermont Auvergne
Brive or Munster v Harlequins or Wasps