Champions Cup Quarter Finals are upon us!

The Champions cup is down to the last eight with the teams fighting it out for a place in the Semi-finals this weekend.

There are two Matches on Saturday starting with Leinster vs Wasps at 15:15. This match is shown live on BTSport 2. This match is expected to be a tight one, which is more than can be said for last years fixtures in which Wasps thrashed Leinster both times.

Prediction: Leinster win

The second match on Saturday is Munster vs Stade Toulousain at 17:45. This is a match between two Giants of European rugby. Expect this to be another close one but with Munster on home turf it will be hard for the French visitors to come away with the victory.

Prediction: Munster win

The other two games are on Sunday. The first of these is between Saracens and Glasgow at 13:00. Both teams have been on fire this season, however, both have benefitted from their artificial pitches. This weekend though neither team has that advantage as they are both used to these pitches. I expect this to be a high scoring, high intensity affair, a game great for the Neutral.

Prediction: Glasgow win

The final game of the weekend is between Clermont and Toulon at 15:15 (UK time) live on BTSport 2. This will be another crunch clash between two sides who meet each other in the Top 14.

Prediction: Clermont win

Leicester Tigers Club statement: New Head Coach

Leicester Tigers are delighted to announce that Matt O’Connor is to return to the club as head coach.
O’Connor won three Premiership titles in his previous spell with the Tigers up to 2013 and has subsequently worked with Leinster, Queensland Reds and Tonga.

He will begin his new role at Leicester in early April, subject to visa.

Leicester Tigers club chairman Peter Tom CBE said: “We are delighted that Matt O’Connor has accepted an offer to return to Welford Road.

“The club has conducted an exhaustive search to find who we feel is the right person to take the team forward and this brought up the names of a number of potentially very good coaches. One of the most significant factors in our deliberations was experience of the Premiership and what it takes to win the competition.

“Matt has that experience as head coach during a successful period which brought three league titles, an Anglo-Welsh Cup and the club’s most recent appearance in the European Cup Final. The team also topped the try-scoring figures in the Premiership four times in that five-year period with Matt in charge of the attack.”

Aaron Mauger, the current head coach, will leave the club after this Saturday’s Aviva Premiership fixture against Northampton Saints.

Former centre Mauger returned to Welford Road as head coach at the start of 2015/16 season, a campaign which included appearances in the semi-finals of both the Aviva Premiership and European Cup.

Tigers remain in the fight for places in the Aviva Premiership semi-finals this season and have just won the Anglo-Welsh Cup with Mauger in interim charge of team affairs.

Chairman Peter Tom added: “While preparing to welcome Matt, we are also disappointed to lose Aaron.

“Matt’s strengths are in his work with players on the training pitch and we are making changes to our organisational structure to enable him to focus solely on the success of the team.

“We thank Aaron for his commitment to the club over the last two seasons as head coach and especially in his time in interim charge of team affairs in recent months. We wish him well for the future.”

Former Australia international centre O’Connor worked as assistant coach with the Brumbies and Australia ‘A’ before joining Leicester in the summer of 2008, initially as backs coach under Heyneke Meyer and then as head coach with Richard Cockerill.

In his time at the club, Tigers won Premiership titles in 2009, 2010 and 2013, the Anglo-Welsh Cup in 2012 and reached the 2009 European Cup Final.

After leaving Welford Road in 2013 to become head coach at Leinster, O’Connor led them to the Celtic League title in his first season and reached the semi-finals of the Champions Cup a year later.

He became attack coach and then co-head coach at Super Rugby side Queensland Reds and assistant coach with Tonga as they recorded three wins out of three on their European tour last autumn.

Tigers club captain Tom Youngs said: “Matt has a good record in the Premiership and had a lot of success in his previous spell here. We look forward to working with him again when he arrives next month.

“At the same time, it is disappointing that Mage is leaving the club. He’s a good man and a good rugby man who has worked very hard as head coach over the last couple of seasons and goes with our best wishes.”

Racing 92 and Stade Francais Paris plan to merge

Stade Francais and Racing 92 have today announced plans to merge. Both clubs are based in Paris and require approval from the Ligue Nationale de Rugby (LNR) to go ahead with their plan.

In a  statement, the clubs said the move needs to be made “to better cope with the challenges of performance and education”.

If this plan gets approved it will certainly ruffle the feathers of both sets of players as many will be required to move on at the end of the season. Racing’s squad boasts 41 players whilst Stade’s senior squad features 37. Realistically half of these players are going to have to go which isn’t an enviable task with both squads featuring many world class players.

This will undoubtedly put clubs across the world on high alert with players like Dan Carter, Maxime Machenaud, Juan Imoff and Pascal Pape potentially becoming available.

The spare place in next season’s division will be filled by either a play-off or offering another promotion spot from the second-tier ProD2.

If this merger is approved and implemented correctly the new team will be hard to beat making the Champions Cup even more tantalising next season.