The Rugby’s On - Episode 9Jan 25
Heineken Champions Cup Quarter-finals: Your ultimate guide to this weekend's action as Europe's elite fight it out for a place in the last four
Everything you need to know as BT Sport brings you live coverage of every game from the last eight of the Heineken Champions Cup
We're down to the last eight in the Heineken Champions Cup as the great and good of European rugby do battle for a place in the May 28 showpiece in Marseille.
With another intoxicating weekend of knockout drama in store, we preview every game from the quarter-finals, with all four matches available to watch exclusively live on BT Sport.
Read on for TV channel information, team news and live stream details.
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Saturday 7 May
Munster vs Toulouse - 2.45pm, BT Sport 3HD & BT Sport Ultimate
Watch live stream at 2.45pm
Our quarter-final coverage gets under way on Saturday lunchtime with a truly mouth-watering spectacle in prospect as Munster entertain reigning champions and five-time European Cup winners Toulouse at the Aviva Stadium.
With no fewer than seven European crowns between them, Saturday afternoon's Dublin showdown sees two founding members of the Heineken Cup go toe-to-toe for a place in the last four in what is both team's 19th appearance at this stage of the competition.
Indeed, the two sides have met six times in the knockout stage to date, including their epic 2008 final at the Millennium Stadium which Munster edged 16-13 to claim a second European crown.
More recently, Munster were winners of the 2014 and 2017 quarter-finals, but Toulouse beat Munster in the round of 16 at Thomond Park last season on their way to lifting the trophy.
No side has won more last-eight ties than Munster in the history of the competition, and victory on Saturday would take their tally to 15.
While hosts Munster have gone from strength to strength since the European campaign began, an unconvincing start to the defence of their European crown saw champions Toulouse scrape into the quarters despite pool-stage defeat to Wasp and a shock last 16 reversal at home to Ulster.
However Toulouse remain a team for the biggest stage and the French giants know what it takes to secure safe progress.
In Munster they face arguably the most in-form side in the tournament right now having seen off the likes of Wasps, Castres and Exeter en route to the last eight.
Successive victories over Exeter, Ulster and Cardiff in all competitions means the province are well-placed to avenge last season's 40-33 defeat at Thomond Park 13 months ago.
"We’re another year together, and from a development point of view, a lot of guys have gained a lot of experience," said Munster head coach Johann van Graan, who is bound for Bath at the end of the season.
“It’s the second time in a year we’ll play Toulouse, and a lot of guys have got more experience in our journey as a group.
"We’d like to believe we’re in a better spot a year on, but every game is different. It’s a new challenge, a new venue, different teams, new referee and it’ll certainly be a challenge on Saturday afternoon.”
While last April's last-16 defeat to Toulouse was played behind closed doors, the Aviva Stadium is the venue for Saturday's rematch, with over 31,000 tickets already sold.
“One other big difference this year is we have our 16th man, we have the Red Army travelling to Dublin,” said Van Graan.
“It’s already the second highest attendance for a Munster quarter-final in our history. We are banking on our 16th man to make a massive difference on Saturday in Dublin.”
Leicester Tigers vs Leinster - 5.15pm, BT Sport 2HD
Watch live stream at 5.15pm
The world-class rugby keeps coming on Saturday afternoon as a Test match in all but name follows the culmination of Munster versus Toulouse.
With coverage starting from 5.15pm on BT Sport 2HD, the eyes of the rugby world will be trained on Welford Road as Premiership pacesetters and two-time European Cup winners Leicester play host to four-time Heineken Cup champions and United Rugby Championship leaders Leinster in an unmissable Anglo-Irish clash.
The last five meetings between the sides have resulted in two wins apiece, including Leinster's 19-16 triumph in the final of the 2009 competition at BT Murrayfield.
Back-to-back Heineken Cup champions in 2001 and 2002, the Tigers are back at European rugby's top table for the first time in a decade in what has been a remarkable transformation under director of rugby Steve Borthwick.
Tigers have won every game they have played in this season’s competition but Borthwick is under no illusions as to how difficult it will be for them to defeat a team of Leinster's European pedigree and reach the semi-finals.
“I think everybody knows what a great team Leinster are and the incredible record they have in Europe," Borthwick told the club's website. “It is an organisation with incredible resources and depth."
More than 20,000 fans saw Leicester defeat Bristol Bears 56-26 at Mattioli Woods Welford Road on Saturday, and Borthwick believes the crowd can make a big difference against Leinster.
“I want this club involved in big games, big occasions and we had one of those today,” he said.
“Next week will be another incredible day here with another big Leicester Tigers crowd and we are excited about what that will be. I hope the supporters are as well.
“This is a supporter base that care so much for the team, for each player, and the players care about every fan. I hope they see that, I hope they feel that, we are in this together.”
Meanwhile Leinster head to the East Midlands having won their last seven away games against English teams in Europe, including last season's victory at Exeter Chiefs in the last eight of the competition last season.
Indeed the Irish giants have won five of their last six quarter-final ties.
With an epic confrontation in store, Leinster senior coach and former England supremo Stuart Lancaster has labelled Saturday’s heavyweight match-up as “one of the special European games”.
“Leicester are probably international quality in every position in my opinion,” said Lancaster. “It’s not dissimilar from our team. They have got a lot of experienced players. It’s going to be one of the special European games for sure.
“They have done amazingly well this season. They have only lost four games, which is a great testament to how well Steve [Borthwick] has coached and improved the team from last season."
La Rochelle vs Montpellier - 5.15pm, BT Sport 3HD
Watch live stream at 5.15pm
Last season's beaten finalists La Rochelle continue their quest for back-to-back Heineken Cup final appearances at home to Top 14 rivals Montpellier.
Beaten by Toulouse in last season's Twickenham showpiece, Ronan O'Gara's side are hoping to go one better this year.
Currently seventh in the French league standings, La Rochelle are yet to taste defeat in Europe this season and have the added advantage of playing in front of their own fans at the Stade Marcel Deflandre.
'Les Corsaires' entertain a Montpellier side that have reached the last eight despite suffering a humiliating 13-try dismantling at the hands of Leinster earlier in the tournament.
Indeed Philippe Saint-Andre's side had to wait until round four for their first win as a 37-26 victory over 2020 champions Exeter secured safe passage to the last 16.
There the French outfit overcame Premiership champions Harlequins in a topsy-turvy two-legged classic to book their place in the quarter-finals.
Hopes of going on to reach the last four have been dealt a hammer blow in their quest for European glory with the news that second-row forward Paul Willemse has been ruled out for the rest of the season.
The 29-year-old, who was an ever-present in France’s Six Nations Grand Slam-winning side this year, ruptured his medial lateral ligament in Montpellier’s Top 14 defeat at Lyon last weekend.
Another all-French clash with Racing or a semi-final showdown with Sale Sharks awaits the winner of this one.
Sunday 7 May
Racing 92 vs Sale Sharks - 2.45pm, BT Sport 2HD
Watch live stream at 2.45pm
The semi-final line up will be confirmed on Sunday afternoon as three-time Heineken Cup finalists Racing welcome two-time EPCR Challenge Cup winners Sale Sharks to state-of-the-art La Defence Arena.
French giants Racing have played 81 European Cup games in their history, while Sale have racked up 71, but this weekend's last-eight encounter will be their first in the competition.
Visitors Sale will have their eye on a first ever semi-final appearance having lost to Biarritz in 2006 and to runners-up La Rochelle last season.
By contrast hosts Racing are no strangers to European knockout rugby. This will be the club's fifth consecutive appearance in the quarter-finals of the Heineken Champions Cup and their seventh overall.
They have won three and lost three of their previous six ties at this stage. However, they won just one of the three which took place at home.
Having made the final in three of the last six seasons, the Parisians have twice fallen at the final hurdle to English opposition, in 2016 against Saracens and most recently versus Exeter Chiefs in 2020.
And with the incentive of a semi-final encounter against La Rochelle or Montpellier, the winner of this tie will fancy their chances of making the Marseille showpiece on May 28.
While Racing are yet to taste defeat in the competition thus far, Sale have reached the last eight for the second straight year despite suffering two defeats en route to the quarters, making them huge underdogs to progress.
However Sharks director of rugby Alex Sanderson says his side has played some of their best rugby with the underdogs’ tag and believes that will be needed again.
“We have a chance to show who we are in terms of our character is something that’s highly motivating," he said.
“They’ve shown their best qualities and played some of their best rugby when they’ve had their backs against the wall and gone into a hostile environment where we’re the underdogs. It’s the same again."
Manu Tuilagi has had an injury-plagued season for club and country but the wrecking-ball centre is set to be unleashed against Racing after being rested for Sale's most recent Premiership outing.
Earlier this week Sanderson described Racing's attacking weapons as "lightning bolts" but Sale are hoping to fight fire with fire with Tuilagi at the forefront of what is sure to be an electrifying occasion.