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Familiar Opponents For Leinster And Munster In Champions Cup’s Round Of 16

Familiar Opponents For Leinster And Munster In Champions Cup’s Round Of 16

Sixteen teams remain in the hunt to lift the Champions Cup trophy at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in London on Saturday, May 25 ©INPHO/Billy Stickland

Leinster and Munster have advanced to the Investec Champions Cup’s round of 16, setting up repeat fixtures in early April with Leicester Tigers and Northampton Saints respectively.

Leinster finished top of Pool 4 after winning 27-10 in Leicester on Saturday, but will have home advantage for the teams’ play-off clash which will be played over the weekend of April 5/6/7.

Caelan Doris crashed over for a last-minute bonus point try against Tigers, adding to earlier efforts from Joe McCarthy, Jordan Larmour, and Dan Sheehan, as Leo Cullen’s men made it four pool wins out of four to progress as the second seeds.

Intriguingly, if Leinster can end Leicester’s interest in the tournament post-Easter, they will host the winners of the round of 16 encounter between the DHL Stormers and La Rochelle, the reigning champions whom they defeated 16-9 during last month’s first round.

Speaking after the pool triumph over his former club Leicester, Cullen said: “It was a proper dogfight, wasn’t it? Leicester came out very strong, that’s the form they’ve had, particularly when they play here.

“You fall 10-0 down after 20 minutes, we weren’t really in the game. We’re playing with a slight breeze so probably forced to carry a little bit more, hence Leicester start winning that bit of territory battle.

“But we settle down into the game after that, take the three points, come up with a good try, have some chances and get held up over the try-line. Thankfully we score another try and then get held up again.

“So you’re wondering if we score that try before half-time, it creates more separation on the scoreboard but then Leicester lose a man to the bin at the start of the second half and then we do get that third try.

“Then the game is stuck at 22-10 for a long time, but we probably had to do more of the defending through that 20-25 minute period. During that we lose Jack (Conan) to the bin as well.

“Thankfully they were going for a bonus point at the end and we get another crack, so we’re delighted to get the fourth try at the very end because that’s 19 points in the pool, which is a great return considering the quality of opposition we’ve come up against.

“To hold Leicester scoreless from 20 minutes on. There’s a lot of fight and character and some good defensive reads, good scramble, so lots of pleasing parts.”

Out-half Harry Byrne, who is part of Ireland’s Guinness Six Nations squad, picked up an ankle injury during the second half and had to come off, with Cullen explaining: “Harry is okay. I think he just aggravated his ankle, so hopefully that settles down quite quickly. He did well, great effort from him.”

Meanwhile, Munster reached the knockout stages with a fourth place finish in Pool 3. They were on track for a higher finish, leading Northampton 20-10 thanks to Gavin Coombes’ early second half try, but the Gallagher Premiership leaders battled back to win at Thomond Park for the first time.

Graham Rowntree’s side will be out for revenge when they visit Franklin’s Gardens, eager to regain the form that saw them win 29-18 in Toulon. Victory in the round of 16 would set up a quarter-final trip to either the Vodacom Bulls or Lyon.

Munster have positive memories from their most recent trip to Northampton, when they won a December 2022 pool game, 17-6, thanks to two Coombes tries, a terrific defensive display collectively, and a player-of-the-match performance from Tadhg Beirne.

The BKT United Rugby Championship title holders have come through an injury-ravaged run of matches, and endured some more setbacks on Saturday will illness forcing Conor Murray’s withdrawal before kick-off, and both Peter O’Mahony and Tom Ahern suffering knocks during the game.

The in-form Ahern, selected as a training panellist with Ireland for the Six Nations, stayed overnight in hospital for observation after being twice struck in the head by the knee of Northampton hooker Curtis Langdon, who received a red card for the incident at a ruck just before half-time.

O’Mahony sustained a ‘couple of little bangs’ according to Rowntree, who said after the 26-23 defeat: “Wherever, wherever. This team, we’ve proven we can go wherever and win. We’ll take that when it comes.

“We’ve got to be better than some of the stuff we were doing. We’ve got to learn. Credit to them (Northampton), by the way. They grew another leg in that last third of the game, some big moments around ruck when we were a bit naïve.

“A bit slow at the breakdown and (player-of-the-match) Courtney (Lawes) is in over the ball. We got penalised for not releasing, moments like that. Credit to them.”

He added: “I’m not going to throw the baby out with the bathwater. We’ve done a body of great work this season, and got some great men coming through.

“We’re going to lose some guys (for the Six Nations), there’s a group of players going to have to play in the URC again, play against Crusaders, ‘Quins away (next month).

“Then we’ll come back together at the end of March, April and a round of 16 game. I’m not going to panic. We’re into the round of 16. It was inevitable we were going to have to go somewhere.”


– Seeding number in brackets

R16 1: Toulouse (1) v Racing 92 (16)

R16 2: LEINSTER (2) v Leicester Tigers (15)

R16 3: Northampton Saints (3) v MUNSTER (14)

R16 4: Bordeaux-Bègles (4) v Saracens (13)

R16 5: Harlequins (5) v Glasgow Warriors (12)

R16 6: Vodacom Bulls (6) v Lyon (11)

R16 7: DHL Stormers (7) v La Rochelle (10)

R16 8: Exeter Chiefs (8) v Bath (9)


– The quarter-finals (April 12/13/14) will be played over one match and the highest-ranked teams from the pool stages will have home venue advantage

QF 1: Winner R16 1 (Toulouse (1)/Racing 92 (16)) v Winner R16 8 (Exeter Chiefs (8)/Bath (9))

QF 2: Winner R16 2 (LEINSTER (2)/Leicester Tigers (15)) v Winner R16 7 (DHL Stormers (7)/La Rochelle (10))

QF 3: Winner R16 3 (Northampton Saints (3)/Munster (14)) v Winner R16 6 (Vodacom Bulls (6)/Lyon (11))

QF 4: Winner R16 4 (Bordeaux-Bègles (4)/Saracens (13)) v Winner R16 5 (Harlequins (5)/Glasgow Warriors (12))


– The semi-finals (May 3/4/5) will be played in Europe and the highest-ranked teams from the pool stages will have home country advantage

SF 1: Winner QF 1 v Winner QF 4

SF 2: Winner QF 2 v Winner QF 3


The 2024 final will be played at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, London on Saturday, May 25. Click here for ticket information.

NB: In the event of drawn matches at the end of normal time during the knockout stages, extra-time will be played. If the scores remain tied at the end of extra-time, the winner will be determined as follows:

(a) the team that has scored the most tries in the match (including extra-time) or
(b) if equal, by a place kick competition