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History suggests Leicester will have the edge over Leinster

By Ian Cameron
Leinster player Sean O' Brien (l) in action during the Heineken Cup Quarter Final match between Leinster and Leicester Tigers at Aviva Stadium on April 9, 2011 in Dublin, Ireland. (Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)

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EPCR statistics show that the home side’s in this weekend’s Heineken Champions Cup quarter-finals will enjoy a significant advantage over their visitors.

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According to the organisers, of the 100 tournament quarter-final matches to date, 74 per cent have been won by the home club.

It may seem obvious, but the statistic might be why Leinster were so irate at being railroaded into a 28 – 0 loss to Montpellier earlier in the competition, a result that fated the Irish giants to an away quarter-final despite winning every game they played in Europe this season.

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They face the in-form Leicester Tigers, this season’s leading side in the Gallagher Premiership, on Saturday. The two sides will be going head-to-head for the fifth time in the knockout stage of the tournament when they clash at Mattioli Woods Welford Road.

It’s currently 2-2 including the 2009 final won by Leinster at BT Murrayfield.

Neither side will lack firepower out wide. Tigers’ will be unleashing the evergreen Chris Ashton, who just this weekend became the Gallagher Premiership’s record try scorer, adding three tries to the record he shared with Tom Varndell.

Leinster, for their part, have their own ballistic missile in the shape of James Lowe, who is the leading try-scorer in this season’s Heineken Champions Cup, with eight tries from four matches.

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Considering how well-matched these sides have traditionally been and the fact both are in rare form in their respective leagues, home advantage could be enough to tip the balance in Leicester’s favour.

Whatever about the new tournament structure this season, it’s certainly thrown up sides’ that can boast vast European pedigrees. There’s a total of 18 European titles between the quarter-finalists. Four clubs – Stade Toulousain (5), Leinster Rugby (4), Leicester Tigers (2) and Munster Rugby (2) – are former tournament winners.

When Munster and Stade Toulousain clash at the Aviva Stadium on Saturday, both clubs will be making a record 19th appearance at the quarter-final stage of the tournament. Munster captain, Peter O’Mahony, has registered the most turnovers with 13 from his five matches.

Munster and Toulouse have met six times in the knockout stage to date – including the famous 2008 final – with Munster ahead 4-2. Munster were winners in 2014 and 2017 at the quarter-final stage, however, Stade Toulousain triumphed 40-33 in the Round of 16 at Thomond Park last season on their way to lifting the trophy.

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Sale Sharks are maybe the fish most out of water in the quarters. Alex Sanderson’s side, who face Racing 92 on Sunday, will be looking for a first quarter-final success in their history having lost to Biarritz Olympique in 2006, and to Stade Rochelais last season.

Montpellier Hérault Rugby are also a little light in European knockout experience. The last time they reached the last eight was 2013.

In fact the matches between Stade Rochelais and Montpellier, and Racing 92 and Sale Sharks, will be the first time the clubs have met in the Heineken Champions Cup.

In the Challenge Cup, the quarter-finalists have 11 European titles between them. Gloucester Rugby (2) and Wasps (1) are former tournament winners, while Edinburgh Rugby, London Irish and RC Toulon have been losing finalists.

Toulon and Saracens are contenders to join the elite group of four clubs – Bath Rugby, Leinster Rugby, Northampton Saints and Wasps – who won have both the Heineken Champions Cup and the EPCR Challenge Cup.

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With the final set for Friday, 27 May in Marseille, the cash rich French side will have extra motivation to make the 70-kilometre journey once again having lost a dramatic 2010 decider to Cardiff Rugby at the Stade Vélodrome in front of a record attendance for an EPCR Challenge Cup final of 48,990.

Edinburgh’s Emiliano Boffelli is this season’s leading scorer with 43 points from four matches, while Santiago Socino of Gloucester is top of the try scoring charts with five also from four matches.

statistics care of the EPCR 

 

 

 

 

 

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