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Saracens to face Leinster for a place in Champions Cup semi-finals

Winners of five of the last nine finals will go head-to-head in the quarter-finals.

Holders Saracens will face top seeds Leinster in a mouthwatering European Champions Cup quarter-final.

Saracens, courtesy of a 62-14 victory against Northampton in their final Pool Two fixture, scraped through as third best runners-up.

And they will now head to Dublin on the weekend of March 31-April 1 in the highlight encounter of this season’s last-eight phase.

Leinster and Saracens have won five European titles between them, and the Aviva Premiership club’s hat-trick bid is still alive despite last weekend’s draw against Ospreys appearing to severely dent their hopes.

Saracens are the tournament’s only English survivors, with their qualification avoiding a wipe-out for the first time in 21 seasons that England have had top-flight European representation.

Elsewhere, Leinster’s fellow Irish heavyweights Munster will have home advantage against Toulon following a 48-3 thumping of Castres on Sunday, in-form Scarlets host Champions Cup debutants La Rochelle and there is an all-French clash between Clermont Auvergne and Racing 92.

Saracens will face Leinster at the Aviva Stadium, and the winners will undoubtedly be made red-hot favourites to win the competition.

The winners will face Scarlets or La Rochelle in the semi-finals, with Munster or Toulon tackling Clermont or Racing.

The Scarlets are Wales’ first quarter-finalists in the competition since 2012, while they have ended an 11-year wait themselves to reach the knockout phase.

The Guinness PRO14 team also became only the second club after Bath to win their group after losing their opening two pool matches.

“We had set some goals as a team,” Scarlets head coach Wayne Pivac said.

“We want to be in the play-offs to try and do well again in the PRO14, but the next frontier was always to crack the play-offs for the European Champions Cup, and the players were desperate to do that.

“After a slow start in rounds one and two, I think it has just been a fantastic effort to win all four, which is what we had to do.”

Munster, European champions in 2006 and 2008, will fancy their chances against three-time title winners Toulon at Thomond Park, while Clermont should make home advantage count against 2016 beaten European finalists Racing.

The European Challenge Cup quarter-final line-up has also been confirmed, with Newcastle at home to Brive and their fellow English contenders Gloucester away to Connacht. The other ties see Edinburgh host Cardiff Blues and Stade Francais travelling to Pau.

Press Association


From Belfast Telegraph