Thank BOD that we will have a European Club Competition with all parties next season; the upcoming weekend of titanic quarter-final clashes shows exactly why European rugby is so special. Europe’s elite teams collide, meaning some elite players colliding too. We highlight the top 10 clashes to look out for in the Heineken Cup quarter finals.
10. Andrew Trimble Vs Chris Ashton (Ulster Vs Saracens)
In their prime, both these international wingers are damaging weapons in piercing opposition defences. But whilst Trimble is having a huge upsurge in form, Ashton’s form continues to be critiqued. In what is likely to be a tight Anglo-Irish clash, will Trimble’s precise finishing be the difference, or will Ashton provide a long awaited moment of magic on the big stage.
9. James Coughlan Vs Louis Picamoles (Munster Vs Toulouse)
Two determined forces lock horns at Thomand Park, both sides having their own wrecking balls at the back of the scrum. James Coughlan is one of the most dynamic and strong carriers in the RaboDirect Pro12, especially in front of his home crowd, whilst the talents of Picamoles need no introducing. Both 8s could be the game-changers by providing the perfect foundation for their sides, but which bulldozer will out-smash the other.
8. Luke Marshall Vs Bradd Barritt (Ulster Vs Saracens)
Marshall and Barritt are the perfect embodiment of their team as a whole. Marshall, on his day, uses his pure flair to bamboozle sides (he made some eye-catching breaks on his Ireland debut, for instance). Barritt, on the other hand, has the Saracens style of defending first, and building everything from that. The consensus of rugby pundits is that attack at its finest beats defence at its most brutal, but will the magic of Marshall and Ulster be able to unlock the solid Saracens wall lead by Bradd Barritt?
7. Morgan Parra Vs Ben Youngs (Clermont Vs Leicester)
Both snubbed of 6nations duty, the form of both scrum halves is exciting. They have recently panicked opposition defences in their respective leagues, but which passionate terrier will prove to be the perfect director at the Stade Michelin?
6. Gerhard Vosloo Vs Julien Salvi (Clermont Vs Leicester)
The game between Richard Cockerill’s former two clubs in his playing days is likely to be won or lost at which pack can bully the other. Gerhard Vosloo is a destructive athlete, the workhorse of a destructive pack who is expected to out-bully the bullies from Leicester at home. Leicester have a mighty pack, but can it resist the million-dollar French club. Salvi, one of the English league’s best opensides, will have to be playing well for this to happen.
5. Nick Williams Vs Billy Vunipola (Ulster Vs Saracens)
Fans would be getting their money’s worth with just these two on the field running into each other! These two mammoths are hardly someone you would want to get on the wrong side of. Together they weigh over 37 stone, and are used to sitting people down with their immense impact. The Ulsterman and Saracen rampaging into each other is going to be a bruising encounter.
4. Davit Zirakashvili Vs Marcos Ayerza (Clermont Vs Leicester)
Leicester boss Richard Cockerill revealed his plan A was attempt to dominate the set piece, but admitted he didn’t know how realistic that was. Maybe that doubt was due to beasts like the Georgian prop Zirakashvili packing down in the scrum. Both sides are lovers of the scrum, and will want to shove the opposition pack into the stand. The Georgian and Argentinian’s battle will be a crucial component of which side will get the scrum superiority.
3. Peter O Mahony Vs Yannick Nyanga (Munster Vs Toulouse)
In what is likely to be a physical encounter between Munster and Toulouse, these two are likely to be doing the unseen nitty-gritty work. The battle of the grafters is likely to have an effect on the winner at the breakdown, which is likely to be a key component of the fixture.
2. Napolioni Nalaga Vs Vereniki Goneva (Clermont Vs Leicester)
Are there many more exciting players to watch than these two flamboyant Fijians? How often when watching them do you gasp in awe of the pure talents of the two wingers. If the Clermont Vs Leicester game keeps tight, it will come down to which back can create their typical moment of magic to make the difference.
1. Mathieu Basteraud Vs Brian O Driscoll (Toulon Vs Leinster)
The most anticipated clash this weekend comes between Toulon and Leinster, and within that, surely Basteraud Vs O Driscoll. Turn the clocks back roughly 3 weeks ago, and these two were throwing the kitchen sink at each other in the decisive France Vs Ireland 6nations fixture, and now the two reunite. Both have contrasting styles, with Basteraud like a boulder crashing through midfield, whilst O Driscoll uses his tactical nous to sneak Leinster through the defensive line. Also throw into the mix that it may be the last European cup that the legend O Driscoll will play in, and the battle of the outside centres is surely going to headline an intriguing set of match-ups this weekend.