European rugby returns this weekend after a 35-week hibernation, with the juggernaut Champions Cup collision between Leinster and Saracens in Dublin on Saturday heading the quarter-final bill. Having finished off their pool matches last January, defending champions Saracens were originally due to come to Dublin at the start of April only for the outbreak of the pandemic to delay that fixture.
With the action having restarted in the 2019/20 Premiership last month, Saracens will now head to Ireland with a squad short a chunk of the players that helped them reach the European knockout stages.
The departures of the likes of George Kruis, Ben Earl (loan) and Will Skelton are illustrative of the overhaul of their squad ahead of their upcoming season in the Championship following automatic relegation due to the salary cap scandal.
That impending year in the second tier has only added to the intrigue of Saracens locking horns with Leinster, the team they defeated in the 2019 European final in Newcastle who just last weekend clinched their third successive Guinness PRO14 title.
French referee Pascal Gauzere will be in charge of this latest meeting between the sides, a last-eight encounter that has some eye-bulging statistics surrounding it. Here are ten match facts to whet the appetite:
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) September 13, 2020
1. Leinster and Saracens have met on four previous occasions in Europe with the Irish province winning three times. This will be the third knockout stage game between the clubs, Leinster winning the quarter-final clash in 2018 while Saracens claimed victory in last season’s final.
2. Leinster have reached the knockout stage of the Heineken Champions Cup for the 16th time, and only Munster and Toulouse have achieved that feat more often (18 each).
3. Leinster have won eight of their last nine quarter-final fixtures (L1), including their last four in a row. Five of Leinster’s eight victories in that run were against Gallagher Premiership opposition.
4. Saracens have won seven of their nine quarter-final fixtures in the Heineken Champions Cup, and their 78 per cent win rate is the joint best of any club to reach the last eight on at least three occasions (Munster are also 78 per cent).
5. Leinster have scored eight tries in the opening 20 minutes this season, more than any other side and five more than Saracens (three) who have scored the fewest of any quarter-finalist in that period.
6. Leinster have used just 31 players in the Heineken Champions Cup this season, fewer than any other side and nine fewer than Saracens (40) who have used the most of any of the quarter-finalists.
7. Saracens allowed their opponents just 28 offloads during the pool stage, the fewest of any club.
8. Leinster’s Josh van der Flier has made 98 tackles this season, more than any other player, while he is one of six to have won a joint-high seven turnovers in the competition.
9. Of the hookers to attempt 25+ lineout throws so far this season, Leinster’s James Tracy boasts the best success rate with 28 out of 29 successful throws (97 per cent).
10. Jackson Wray, who will make his 250th appearance for the club on Saturday if selected, was the only player to feature in each of Saracens’ six pool matches this season. In contrast, Leinster had 15 players to feature in every game, more than any other club.
Top seeds ??
Domestic champions ?
Unbeaten this season ?
Here are all their tastiest top tries ?? pic.twitter.com/TEgLex9k2k
— Heineken Champions Cup (@ChampionsCup) September 15, 2020
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