Battle for European supremacy hots up
April 10, 2009
Who will lift the Heineken Cup trophy this season? © Getty Images
Harlequins 5 - 6 Leinster Munster 43 - 9 Ospreys Leicester Tigers 20 - 15 Bath Rugby Cardiff Blues 9 - 6 Toulouse
Lee Byrne Martin Castrogiovanni Gordon D'Arcy Gavin Henson Butch James Yannick Jauzion Byron Kelleher Denis Leamy Geordan Murphy Brian O'Driscoll Andy Powell Xavier Rush David Skrela Martyn Williams Dai Young
Bath Rugby Cardiff Blues England France Harlequins Ireland Leicester Tigers Leinster Munster Ospreys Toulouse Wales
The battle for the Heineken Cup crown resumes this weekend with four mouth-watering quarter-final clashes.
On Saturday, Cardiff Blues booked their passage in to the semi-finals with a 9-6 win over Toulouse in Cardiff, while Leicester will meet them at the Millennium Stadium after their close-run 20-15 win over Bath at the Walkers Stadium.
The remaining places will be decided on Sunday when Munster will rack up a century of appearances in the Heineken Cup, joining fellow centurians Toulouse, as they enter the knock-out stages for a record 10th successive season.
"We have reached the stage of the Heineken Cup where it is all or nothing - if you don't perform in the 80 minutes of a knock-out game you are out of the competition," said Munster coach Tony McGahan. "And, although we have been in this position in the past and it is not a new experience for the players, we do have tremendous respect for the Ospreys - not only their international players but for all of those in a quality squad.
The Munster side shows just one change from the side that started against Leinster last weekend with Denis Leamy returning to the back row. Leamy's return to fitness means that Niall Ronan slips to the replacements bench as David Wallace returns to his more familiar open side flanker role.
The Ospreys will head to Ireland without injured centre Gavin Henson, and fullback Lee Byrne is battling to overcome a foot tendon injury. But Ospreys head coach Sean Holley said: "We have got the incentive of a home semi-final in the Millennium Stadium and the dream of making the final." [Teams]
And Harlequins are also on the scent of their first semi-final appearance, with rugby director Dean Richards predicting a "battle royal" against Leinster. "We've played some quality rugby of late. We are on form, with only one defeat in our last 10 games," said Richards. "But we aren't going to get carried away with the occasion on Sunday - it's just another game for us."
Fly-half Nick Evans starts for the Premiership side for the first time in four weeks, following an ankle injury and captain Will Skinner also returns to lead the side and will once again form the formidable Quins back row with Chris Robshaw and Nick Easter.
The only other change to the side that beat Bath last time out is in the centres, with Jordan Turner-Hall once again taking the No.12 shirt, to partner Gonzalo Tiesi, with Ugo Monye and David Strettle on the wings, and Mike Brown at fullback.
Brian O'Driscoll and Luke Fitzgerald return to the Leinster starting line-up for the first time since the Six Nations. O'Driscoll partners Gordon D'Arcy at centre, while in the pack, Bernard Jackman has been named at hooker.
Shane Jennings and Jamie Heaslip join Rocky Elsom in the back-row. The make up of the replacements bench was confirmed following Jonathan Sexton's failed attempt to over-turn a two-week ban. [Teams]
Heineken Cup Quarter-Finals:
Heineken Cup Semi-Finals: (May 2/3)