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The Dallaglio verdict on Saints, Quins in 'shot to nothing' semis

By Liam Heagney
Harlequins' Alex Dombrandt escapes Northampton's Tommy Freeman last Saturday at Twickenham (Photo by Warren Little/Getty Images)

Two-time Champions Cup winner Lawrence Dallaglio has shared his thoughts on whether the upcoming final at Tottenham on May 25 can feature at least one Gallagher Premiership side.

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No English club has featured in the decider since Exeter lifted the trophy in the behind-closed-doors October 2020 showpiece against Racing in Bristol.

This weekend, the Premiership has two clubs contesting the semi-finals but Northampton and Harlequins face daunting challenges.

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Nemani Nadolo on his peak and once being considered “too big”

Former Fijian winger Nemani Nadolo chats to Liam Heagney about when he reached his peak and how he was actually at one stage considered too big to play rugby.

Video Spacer

Nemani Nadolo on his peak and once being considered “too big”

Former Fijian winger Nemani Nadolo chats to Liam Heagney about when he reached his peak and how he was actually at one stage considered too big to play rugby.

The Saints are heading to Dublin on Saturday to take on Leinster in front of a capacity 82,300 crowd, while Quins head to France the following day to face Toulouse in their home city with 33,000 due to attend.

Dallaglio knows what it is like to win big away from home at this stage of the tournament. He was the Wasps skipper when they came to the old Lansdowne Road to upset Munster in front of a partisan crowd in a memorable 2004 semi-final.

Fixture
Investec Champions Cup
Leinster
20 - 17
Full-time
Northampton
All Stats and Data

However, with Premiership clubs these days restricted by salary caps, the 2004 and 2007 cup-winning skipper reckoned Northampton and Harlequins have got mountains to climb and that a win for either club would be a phenomenal achievement in the current climate.

Speaking exclusively to RugbyPass ahead of the semi-finals, Dallaglio said: “If you had said to us at the beginning of the tournament who do you think will be in the last four, you’d have probably said definitely Leinster and Toulouse. You wouldn’t have said Harlequins and Northampton, but they have all earned the right to be there.

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“Winning away from home in this tournament has always been hard and it’s becoming more and more difficult, especially with South African teams involved etc. But that is the challenge the English clubs face.

“A couple of years ago there were hardly any English clubs in the last 16, let alone the quarter-finals. Look, those with big resources and slightly bigger budgets can compete both domestically and at European level.

“I think just being brutally honest with the salary cap constraints that currently exist in England, you can still be successful in this tournament as an English club but you need everything to go in your favour really. You need to keep all your players fit and you probably need home advantage all the way, and even then it’s whatever.

“I suspect it’s a bit of a shot to nothing for both these teams if you look at the language being delivered by all these clubs. Leinster would say that they are in the place they want to be but they are not playing as well as they have done in previous years and there is still a bit of improvement there.

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“Toulouse, it’s business as usual. They expect to be here. It’s interesting when you have got Harlequins saying it’s the biggest game in the history of the club and you have got Toulouse almost saying, ‘Well, it’s just another semi-final really of a competition we have won five times’.

“Both English clubs, Saints and Quins, have got mountains to climb. If they are to win either of those two games it would be a phenomenal achievement.

Fixture
Investec Champions Cup
Toulouse
38 - 26
Full-time
Harlequins
All Stats and Data

“Barring a disaster you’d expect the final to be Leinster against Toulouse but having gone away to the Aviva Stadium myself many, many years ago against Munster and walked out to a crowd of 55,000 with 54,500 wearing red shirts it was quite something but it can be done.

“Quins themselves sort of thrive in that environment. They know that to beat Toulouse they have got to score tries but fortunately, the one thing Quins are very good at is scoring tries.

“It’s a shot to nothing. They will give it everything they have got. They have only got to look at the Exeter game [last month’s quarter-final] to realise how good Toulouse can be when they are in the mood. And yeah, it’s quite exciting really.

“It has been another fascinating tournament. It’s still one of the greatest tournaments in the world. It’s got a new sponsor [Investec], it has a new format, it has lots of different things happening. I was lucky enough to win it a couple of times.

“We probably should have won it a couple more times but it’s a tough tournament to win, and there are so many great sides. Lots of challenges across a tournament that starts in December and finishes in May. It’s segmented, there are many tournaments in between, but it throws up stories every year.”

  • Coming to RugbyPass this Sunday: Lawrence Dallaglio on how Wasps saved his life and why he is now so heavily invested in Dallaglio RugbyWorks, the foundation supporting young people who have been excluded from mainstream education in the UK
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