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Irish fans love a Dublin dust-up with the English. They watched a cracker in the Aviva two weeks ago when the boys in green ambushed Eddie Jones’ mob to rob the Red Rose of the Grand Slam and it’s round two in the capital this weekend when Leinster face Wasps in the pick of the quarter-finals.
Saturday’s Anglo-Irish showdown could see as many of 14 of the players involved a fortnight ago renew acquaintances and with both sides currently leading their respective domestic leagues, it promises to be another bruising battle royale in Dublin.
Leinster boast three Champions Cup titles to Wasps’ two but the last time the EnglishEu club ventured over the Irish Sea in the pool stages of last season’s competition, they came home with a 33-6 win. The last time the two European heavyweights faced other in January in the return match, Wasps smashed Leo Cullen’s side 51-10 at the Ricoh Arena.
Revenge potentially beckons then and with the Aviva screaming for another English scalp, Leinster though are the favourites to go through at 51/100 while Wasps are 6/4 to achieve what the Red Rose could not a fortnight ago.
Home advantage also favours Ireland’s second quarter-finalists Munster, who play Toulouse at the fortress that is Thomond Park on Saturday. It’s the first time in three seasons the Red Army have fought their way through to the knockout stages and the two-time champions looked more like their old selves in Pool 1 with five wins from six.
Toulouse in contrast limped over the line as the seventh of the eighth seeds to go through and they’re miles off the pace in this year’s Top 14, sitting so far back in ninth the leaders need binoculars to see them.
As a result Munster are 6/25 to make the semis while the French are 29/10 to wake up and smell le coffee.
Reigning champions Saracens are in action at home on Sunday against Glasgow and the boys from north London have certainly been at their indomitable best in Europe this season, the only side to book their place in the quarter-finals without tasting defeat. They also boast the defensive record in the Premiership and will as ever be the toughest of nuts to crack on the astroturf of the Allianz.
Warriors fans will be desperate for crumbs of comfort ahead of their visit to the Big Smoke but hope seems in short supply with their team having failed to make much of an impression on the Pro12 this season, while they stumbled into the last eight in Europe as Pool 1 runners-up.
Sarries are priced at 2/15 to send their visitors packing without much further ado while Glasgow are 19/4 to extend their Champions Cup campaign.
France will definitely have one side in the semis with Clermont entertaining Toulon at the Parc des Sports Marcel Michelin. The two sides have already met twice in the Top 14 this season with the hosts winning on each occasion and it’s home advantage which is seen as the deciding factor once again, Clermont the 27/100 favourites to progress, Toulon the 11/4 outsiders.
Elsewhere this weekend the second tier Challenge Cup is also at the quarter-final stage and Friday night sees Edinburgh host French upstarts La Rochelle at Murrayfield. The Top 14 leaders have been putting rather a few noses out of joint across the Channel this season and are 5/1 to lift the first major trophy in the club’s 119-year history.
The Ospreys, who welcome Stade Francais to the Principality Stadium on Sunday, are the number one seeds and favourites for the competition at 9/4 while Bath are rated 11/4 to be crowned champions for the first time in nine years.
Brive are the visitors to the Rec on Saturday with memories of their European heyday in the late 1990s fading fast and are the rank outsiders in this season’s Challenge Cup at 33/1.