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Tigers looking to topple Ulster

Former Heineken Cup winners Leicester and Ulster will battle it out for a prized quarter-final home tie on Saturday after booking their places in the tournament's knockout phase.

Ulster head to Welford Road holding a two-point advantage over the Tigers as Pool Five leaders, and they know that victory would guarantee progression as top seeds.

A Leicester win, though, would see them finish top - unless their opponents collect two bonus points - and send Ulster on their travels in the last-eight.

"They are the English champions, they have a great track record in both their own league and the Heineken Cup, so it's going to be a tough task," Ulster head coach Mark Anscombe said.

"The fact is, if you are going to win the Heineken Cup - or even be a contender - you have to win big games in daunting grounds like Welford Road. You cannot win the competition just playing at home.

"We need to make sure that we get the details right, but we need to be excited by the challenge of what is in front of us.

"The media will blow it up and it's a big game. We need to realise that the challenge in front of us is daunting, but it's a challenge that we are more than capable of handling."

Centre Anthony Allen and hooker Tom Youngs return to the Leicester line-up, while locks Graham Kitchener and Ed Slater are also back in action, together with number eight Jordan Crane.

Aviva Premiership leaders Saracens will join Leicester in the quarter-finals if they beat Allianz Park visitors Connacht on Saturday.

Defeat against Pool Three leaders Toulouse last weekend thwarted Saracens' hopes of finishing top, but a best runner-up spot now offers them a route through.

"We are frustrated, but we now look forward to Connacht and look to bounce back from last weekend," Saracens' England wing David Strettle said.

"One thing this group has proven in the past is that we respond well to setbacks, so we won't dwell too much on the defeat."

Reigning European champions Toulon, another team already through, know a bonus point success at Glasgow on Saturday - and Ulster coming unstuck against Leicester - could see them clinch the top seed allocation.

"There is no such thing as little games," Toulon backs coach Pierre Mignoni said.

"We beat Glasgow comfortably in the first round, but it's very hard to beat them when they are at home, plus they have just come back from Exeter with a win.

"We have to give the best of ourselves and show an unbreakable determination. If we are serious and if we are giants, I'm not worried. We will win."

Cardiff Blues will be without injured Wales international forwards Sam Warburton and Gethin Jenkins against Pool Two visitors Exeter at the Arms Park, when a win should see the Blues claim one of three Amlin Challenge Cup last-eight spots available to Heineken runners-up.

And an Amlin place is all that Harlequins can now realistically aim for when they head to Llanelli on Sunday for a Pool Four encounter against the Scarlets.

Quins will be without their exciting wing Charlie Walker, who ruptured a pectoral muscle in last weekend's home loss to Clermont Auvergne. He has undergone surgery and is not expected back in action until April.

England scrum-half Danny Care, who was also injured against Clermont, is replaced by Karl Dickson, but England skipper Chris Robshaw starts ahead of reporting for Six Nations training duty on Monday.

Gloucester, meanwhile, conclude their Heineken campaign away to Perpignan on Sunday, with rugby director Nigel Davies calling up full-back Rob Cook and hooker Huia Edmonds.

Munster have already won Gloucester's group, but Davies was encouraged by last Saturday's 20-7 home defeat against the Irish heavyweights.

"That (performance) set the bar in terms of intensity and commitment, and we have to look to repeat that," he said.

"We are focusing on many things in this second half of the season. We're going to play rugby, we will play with intent, but also look to improve our accuracy.

"If we match that intensity and work-rate and be a bit more clinical, we will win more games than we lose."


From Belfast Telegraph