Last 16 Time

It’s Champions Cup last 16 weekend and that will see all four provinces out with Leinster and Munster playing in the Champions Cup with Ulster and Connacht in Challenge Cup action. Leinster entertain Leicester Tigers in Dublin and Munster face Northampton Saints again in this year’s Champions Cup.

Ulster will play Montpellier while Connacht will take on Pau in the Challenge Cup, All four sides will face tricky games with Leinster the mostly likely Irish side to take victory on current form. Munster will know they will need to dig very deep and now with John Ryan suspended after his sighting after foul play last weekend. They will find it tough with Darragh Mc Sweeney or Kieran Ryan to now back up Stephen Archer on the tight head side of the scrum.

Here’s hoping RG Synman will have recovered from the illness that kept him out of last weekend’s game against Cardiff. Munster will look to other experienced players now and will need to gain at least parity at scrum time to stand any hope of beating an in form Northampton. Top of the Premiership and scoring tries for fun, Northampton will fancy their chances of reaching another Champions Cup quarter final. It will take a lot of good fortune and more than “boot, bite and bollock” to see Munster through the next few weeks.

Munster have their backs to the wall and will come out swinging but have they the ability to produce the knockout blow, that’s the big question, only time will tell of course.

Leinster could be without a number of key players but the strength in depth of their squad will help alleviate those injury worries. Home advantage will help the Leinster cause even though Leinster went to La Rochelle in the group phase and found a win in a tight contest. They will have home comforts in the quarter finals if they navigate Leicester on Saturday evening. Time for Leinster to pull out a big European performance to help advance their title credentials.

Ulster dropped into the Challenge Cup and with Richie Murphy in interim charge until the end of the season and there short tour of South Africa in the League now over they can focus on trying to put into practice any lessons learned from 2 weeks in South Africa. Plenty of off field activity since January has Ulster in a state of flux on and off the field. No better time than this weekend in Montpellier to steady the ship and pull off an unexpected win in France.

For Connacht, the season is slowing grinding to a close but like Ulster they can use a trip to Pau in the Challenge Cup to breathe fire and life back into an ailing campaign. They will have Finlay Bealham and Bundee Aki back and have shown previously in this season they can play rugby and can pull off a result when all logical thinking suggests otherwise. Time then for another big performance and maybe just maybe they could do the business and nick a win on the road…

It’s the Champions Cup and Challenge Cup last 16 and while it seems likely on current form that only 1 Irish side will do the business, all 4 will be hell bent on doing what they can to cause more than one shock this weekend…  

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