It’s one of the biggest weekends in domestic rugby with just four teams remaining in the Heineken Cup, battling it out for a coveted place in the final.
Few would have bet against Munster and Toulouse being there or thereabouts at this stage, but very few would have backed Saracens and London Irish to be making up the quartet.
These two teams have been the ‘story’ of the competition, with consistent but fairly indifferent form in the Guinness Premiership, yet stepping up their performance on Cup weekends. Saracens’ win over the Ospreys was the highlight of the competition for me, and seeing Richard Hill at the top of his game was priceless.
Hill will need another heroic performance to overcome Munster on Sunday. The Irish side come into their own in the European competition, and although the national team has been misfiring of late, Munster’s victory over Leicester was anything but unconvincing.
Munster are experts at controlling a game from start to finish, imposing their style of play on the match and not letting the other side get a sniff of dominance. It should be a fine fixture, and although Sarries can’t be written off, I’m backing Munster to reach the final.
London Irish also face a fearsome task as they entertain Toulouse at Twickenham. The French will play at a lightning fast pace, looking to set free their exciting back line. The Exiles will want to exert their control on the game, and are likely to opt for a tighter game.
The set-piece should be crucial, and if Paice and Kennedy are on song in the lineout, Geraghty and Hewat can look to play a territorial game, picking up points when they can. Unfortunately for them, Ellisalde’s side have the ability to strike from wherever they are on the pitch, and I expect them to be too much for London Irish.
How do you see the games unfolding this weekend? Will there be an English side in the final?