Be it the tournaments leading strike runner or the most accurate boot in comp, the return of the Champions Cup provides a much-needed dose of normality in an increasingly unpredictable sporting world.
Leinster enter the quarter-finals fresh from securing the PRO14 title, defeating Ulster in what was largely a bloodless coup in Dublin on Saturday night. They face European nemesis, Saracens, who are keen on what head coach Mark McCall has described as the first ‘meaningful’ match for some time. For their troubles, Ulster face a tough assignment away to Toulouse, while Exeter Chiefs and Northampton Saints face off in an all-English showdown at Sandy Park on Sunday. Clermont and Racing, just a handful of weeks after returning to competitive rugby, will duke it out at the Parc des Sports Marcel Michelin.
Ahead of the Heineken Champions Cup quarter-finals, the ECPR have published their previews statistics and facts, 14 in total.
14 CHAMPIONS CUP FACTOIDS
Five tournament winners with 13 Heineken Champions Cup titles between them remain in contention for silverware this season.
On the only other occasion in 2017/18 that Leinster qualified as the No 1-ranked club from the pool stage they went on to lift the trophy, defeating Racing 92 in the final in Bilbao.
Exeter and Northampton are going head-to-head for the first time in the tournament. Sunday’s all-Premiership showdown at Sandy Park will be the Chiefs’ second quarter-final appearance and their first at home.
Ulster, who travel to Toulouse, have won one of their four away quarter-finals when they famously defeated Munster 22-16 at Thomond Park in 2012.
Exeter’s Joe Simmonds has a 93% goalkicking success rate from 27 attempts during his six pool stage appearances.
Toulouse have qualified for the knockout stage for the 18th time, equalling Munster’s tournament record.
The Leinster-Saracens clash is a repeat of the 2018 quarter-final at the Aviva Stadium won 30-19 by Leinster, however, Saracens exacted revenge with a victory in last season’s final in Newcastle.
Virimi Vakatawa of Racing 92 has the highest total of defenders beaten from the pool stage with 39.
The only time ASM Clermont Auvergne lost a home quarter-final match was in 2018 against Racing 92 who are back at Stade Marcel-Michelin on Saturday looking for a repeat of that impressive 28-17 success.
The only previous meeting in the knockout stage between Toulouse and Ulster was in Belfast in the 1998/99 season when Ulster pulled off a famous 15-13 quarter-final victory before going on to win the competition. Current Toulouse president, Didier Lacroix, and High Performance Manager, Jerome Cazalbou, played in the match.
Home clubs have a 76% success rate in the 92 tournament quarter-finals played to date.
If selected, Courtney Lawes of Northampton Saints and Exeter’s Ian Whitten will make their 50th tournament appearances on Sunday.
Leinster’s quarter-final will be the club’s 175th tournament match.
Racing’s Teddy Thomas, Sam Simmonds of Exeter and Leinster’s Garry Ringrose are this season’s joint top try scorers with six apiece.
CHAMPIONS CUP MATCH KICK OFF TIMES:
Leinster v Saracens (Saturday, 16.00)
Clermont Auvergne v Racing 92 (Saturday, 18.30)
Toulouse v Ulster (Sunday, 13.30)
Exeter v Northampton (Sunday, 18.30)
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