Saracens and Glasgow to thrill European Champions Cup, giants meet in Munster, Leinster and Wasps battle for supremacy

Jack de Menezes
Saracens enter their European Champions Cup quarter-final off the back of a 53-10 thrashing of Bath: Getty

Leinster vs Wasps, Saturday 15:15

The weekend kicks off with a bang in Dublin as the respective leaders of the Pro12 and Premiership meet in the form of Leinster vs Wasps at the Aviva Stadium. Joe Launchbury, James Haskell, Nathan Hughes and Elliot Daly will all return to the scene of England’s Six Nations heartbreak two weeks ago intent of gaining revenge of the Irish, with Jonathan Sexton looking to plot the downfall of the English once again.

Sexton is joined by a number of his international colleagues in Jack McGrath, Tadhg Furlong, Devin Toner, Sean O’Brien, Robbie Henshaw and Garry Ringrose in the starting XV, but the most eye-catching inclusion comes at full-back where 21-year-old Joey Carbery starts in the absence of the injured Rob Kearney, with Zane Kirchner named among the replacements.

Jonathan Sexton will hope to plot the downfall of the English for the second time in three weeks (Getty)

Wasps will be confident that they can avoid the same fate as England though thanks to their star-studded back line that sees the dangerous trio of Willie le Roux, Christian Wade and Kurtley Beale form the back three once again.

Munster vs Toulouse, Saturday 17:45

Two-time winners Munster host four-time champions Toulouse in a collision of two European giants at Thomond Park, with the Irish side handed a quadruple boost as it welcomes back its Irish contingent.

Peter O'Mahony can back-up his dominant showing in the final round of the Six Nations (Getty)

Scrum-half Conor Murray has recovered from the shoulder injury that forced him to miss the Irish victory over England two weeks ago to start, and he’s joined in the squad by fellow internationals CJ Stander, Keith Earls and the France-bound Donnacha Ryan. The provincial side will be led by the influential Peter O’Mahony, who can make another major statement for British and Irish Lions inclusion on Saturday.

Toulouse meanwhile have struggled this season in the top 14, but don’t let that form lull you into thinking they’ll go down easily. The side are packed full with French internationals, with former Les Bleus captain Thierry Dusautoir set to lead the side from blindside flanker, and Scotland lock Richie Gray back in the side.

Saracens vs Glasgow Warriors, Sunday 13:00

Saracens’ biggest change for this weekend comes in the additional 5,000 fans that will pack into Allianz Park as the reigning European champions expand the stands for what should prove a glorious affair of running rugby.

Sarries name an unchanged starting line-up from the one that put over 50 points past Bath last weekend, with the only change coming on the bench as Ben Spencer returns from a leg injury.

Stuart Hogg and Jonny Gray will both want to lay down a marker ahead of the Lions tour (Getty)

However, they will meet their match when it comes to natural talent as Glasgow pose a serious threat when they get the ball in hand. 12 Scotland internationals will start for the Warriors, with the dangerous Stuart Hogg and Tommy Seymour looking to impress in a game that many will be watching with one eye on Lions Test selection. With 15,000 watching on in Barnet, it could well prove to be the game of the weekend.

Clermont Auvergne vs Toulon, Sunday 16:15

An all-French affair wraps up the weekend where anything but a Clermont Auvergne victory will come as a shock. Toulon may still be able to boast a star-studded line-up, but they are not the same team as the one who used to dominate this competition and find themselves down in fourth in the Top 14.

Clermont may not be top of the league due to La Rochelle’s brilliant run of form, but they remain an unstoppable force at the Stade Marcel-Michellin. The match represents a repeat of the 2013 European Cup final, and while Toulon just edged the game that day, the same is unlikely to happen this weekend.

Camille Lopez will prove key to Clermont's hopes (Getty)

Led by the controlling half-back partnership of Morgan Parra and Camille Lopez, and with the dangerous finishers out wide in Nick Abendanon and Noa Nakaitaci, Clermont go into the encounter as heavy favourites, though they will need to keep their discipline as Toulon welcome back the reliable Leigh Halfpenny at full-back.

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