Champions Cup last-16: Kick-off times, TV details, team news and more

Leinster get the action underway on Friday night against Toulon at the RDS

Leinster are hoping Johnny Sexton will be fit for their Champions Cup last-16 clash with Toulon. Photo: James Crombie/Inpho

Leinster are hoping Johnny Sexton will be fit for their Champions Cup last-16 clash with Toulon. Photo: James Crombie/Inpho

 

This time a year ago we were pining for sport as it disappeared – now the matches are coming thick and fast and the pace is relentless.

Two weeks ago the Six Nations reached its conclusion, a week later it was the Pro14 final. And now it’s time for the continental action to resume, with the last-16 of the Champions and Challenge Cups.

All four Irish provinces are involved in Europe – Leinster and Munster in the European Cup, Connacht and Ulster in the second tier competition.

For many of the continent’s stars this will be the latest in a string of gruelling fixtures, with the first knockout round followed quickly by the quarter-finals just a week later.

Pro14 champions Leinster are among the favourites to dethrone Exeter and win their fifth Champions Cup, and their emphatic win over Munster last weekend suggests they will go close.

As for Johann van Graan’s side they still look to be short of the standard required to win the title, but if they can navigate a route past Toulouse this weekend they will feel anything is possible.

Here is everything you need to know as European rugby resumes.

What is it?

The last-16 of the Champions Cup, with Leinster and Munster both in action.

When is it?

The fixtures take place over Easter weekend, from Friday April 2nd to Sunday April 4th. Leinster are up first on Good Friday, with Munster playing on Saturday afternoon.

What are the full fixtures?

Champions Cup last-16

Friday April 2nd

Leinster v Toulon, RDS Arena, 5.30pm

Gloucester v La Rochelle, Kingsholm, 8pm

Saturday April 3rd

Wasps v Clermont Auvergne, Ricoh Arena, 12.30pm

Munster v Toulouse, Thomond Park, 3pm

Exeter Chiefs v Lyon, Sandy Park, 5.30pm

Sunday April 4th

Racing 92 v Edinburgh, La Defense Arena, 12.30pm

Bordeaux-Begles v Bristol Bears, Stade Chaban-Delmas, 3pm

Scarlets v Sale Sharks, Parc y Scarlets, 5.30pm

Quarter-finals

April 9th/10th/11th

Exeter/Lyon v Leinster/Toulon

Wasps/Clermont v Munster/Toulouse

Gloucester/La Rochelle v Scarlets/Sale

Bordeaux/Bristol v Racing 92/Edinburgh

How can I follow it?

It’s set to be an Easter weekend of sitting in front of the box - all of the fixtures are being broadcast by BT Sport, with Virgin Media/Channel 4 showing one fixture, which is Wasps against Clermont. You can also follow all of the action from the Leinster and Munster games via the Irish Times liveblog.

What’s happened so far?

The 2020-21 tournament didn’t get underway until December, with the expanded number of 24 teams split into two groups of 12. The idea was each team would play four fixtures against two other sides, one home and one away. The first two rounds were completed before Christmas, however rising Covid-19 rates, lockdowns and travel restrictions saw the remaining fixtures scrapped in January.

In the two games which were played Leinster were comfortable winners away to Montpellier (35-14) and at home to Northampton (35-19), ensuring their safe passage into the knockouts. Munster, meanwhile, beat Harlequins 21-7 at Thomond Park before producing one of their famous European performances as they sacked Clermont 39-31 in a thriller away from home.

Munster players celebrate after beating Clermont in December. Photo: Thierry Zoccolan/AFP via Getty Images
Munster players celebrate after beating Clermont in December. Photo: Thierry Zoccolan/AFP via Getty Images

Connacht, however, missed out on the last-16 after defeats away to Racing 92 and at home to Bristol, while Ulster also dropped into the Challenge Cup after defeats to Toulouse and Gloucester.

Team news

As it stands Leinster are likely to have both Johnny Sexton and Ross Byrne available for their clash with Toulon, despite concern over both following the Pro14 final win over Munster. James Ryan and Caelan Doris remain out with head injuries however. Leo Cullen will name his side on Thursday.

As for Munster they are monitoring the fitness of Peter O’Mahony, “after sustaining a deep laceration to his thigh against Leinster.” They will make a decision on him later in the week, with van Graan’s side likely to be confirmed on Friday.

Bogey team?

There aren’t many teams Leinster have struggled against in recent years, but Toulon are one of them. The two sides met four times between 2013-14 and 2015-16 and lost all four, with the French side winning tree back-to-back titles in 2013, 2014 and 2015. Friday looks like a good chance to settle that score.

The mighty Toulouse

From one French heavyweight, to the heaviest. Munster definitely got the short straw in having to play four-time winners Toulouse in the knockouts, with the defending Top14 champions currently three points clear domestically and boasting some of the best players in Europe in the form of Antoine Dupont, Julien Marchand and Romain Ntamack.

Munster do have a positive 4-2 record against Saturday’s opponents, including in the 2008 final in Cardiff. However, with no fans to roar them on at Thomond Park, their task looks a stiff one.

What are the bookies saying?

To win the Champions Cup:

Leinster 7-2

Exeter7-2

Racing 92 4-1

Toulouse 5-1

Clermont 8-1

La Rochelle 10-1

Munster 20-1

Match betting

Leinster 2-9 Draw 20-1 Toulon 3-1 (Leinster -12 10-11)

Munster 11-8 Draw 20-1 Toulouse 8-15 (Munster +4 10-11)

What about the Challenge Cup?

Connacht are the first province up in the second-tier competition as they take on Leicester at Welford Road on Saturday night (kick-off 8pm). Ulster are then in action on Sunday, away to Harlequins at The Stoop (8pm). Both games can be watched on BT Sport.

Challenge Cup las-16 fixtures

Friday April 2nd

Zebre v Bath, 3pm

London Irish v Cardiff Blues, 5.30pm

Montpellier v Glasgow Warriors, 8pm

Saturday April 3rd

Benetton v Agen, 3pm

Ospreys v Newcastle, 3pm

Dragons v Northampton, 5.30pm

Leicester v Connacht, 8pm

Sunday April 4th

Harlequins v Ulster, 8pm

Quarter-finals

Dragons/Northampton v Harlequins/Ulster

Leicester/Connacht v Ospreys/Newcastle.

Where are the finals?

Marseille was denied the chance to host the final last year so will now hold finals weekend in 2021, with the Champions Cup final on May 22nd.

Can I go?

It’s highly unlikely – but we are getting closer.

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