Haven't seen much this weekend but there have been a few big statements made, particularly from the English sides. Quinns and Saracens racking up very impressive victories. Leinster unconvincing, also Munster seem to have blown their chances already. Ulster may be Ireland's best hope this season. Leinster's group looks like being a straight shot between themselves and Clermont - can't see a second side coming out of that group considering Scarlets and Exeter are the other two sides. Should Leinster prevail I think they will be hard to back against to go on again but injuries may prevent that from happening and Clermont's time has come really to have a proper assault on the competition.
With the final being in the Aviva I hope Leinster can get there again but it will be tough. Ulster look very good this season, their performance away to Cardiff on the back of Spence's passing was one of the most impressive displays I've seen in a long time. They have Bowe back now and Jared Payne at fullback looks a class act. How Jackson handles 10 will probably determine their chances because other than that they are sound in all areas.
Toulouse will be knocking about but I'm not sure they are as much a threat as recent years. McAllister is unpredictable and like Jackson for Ulster he could determine their chances. Toulon have assembled some squad and could be a good outside bet. They had a big enough victory against Montpellier this evening who are no slouches. Great that the competition is back though, have work off next weekend so I'm looking forward to sitting back and enjoying the rugby fest sky provide on Heineken cup weekends.
Leicester v Ospreys on Sunday should be good. Played each other a lot in recent years and always been close. Ospreys not as strong individually as they have been in recent years but more of a team now. Should be good.
Bad weekend for the Irish sides. Munster were impressive in defeat though - Zebo and Murray are progressing really well.
Saw Ospreys-Toulouse on Saturday - really impressed with the Ospreys scrum half. Heard a lot about him before but that was my first viewing. Incredible passer. Very impressed with the Ospreys in general. Tipuric caused no end of trouble in the rucks.
Toulon with another hammering this evening. Whoever draws them at their home patch has a hugely daunting contest. They create some fortress down there.
Heineken Cup quarter-final draw:
Harlequins v Munster
Clermont Auvergne v Montpellier
Toulon v Leicester
Saracens v Ulster
(ties to be played on the weekend of 5-7 April)
Saracens or Ulster v Toulon or Leicester
Clermont Auvergne or Montpellier v Harlequins or Munster
(ties to be played on the weekend of 26-28 April)
Clermont have a straight run there. Such a strong side, they would be worthy winners if they do go all the way. Big disappointment that Leinster didn't get through with the final at the Aviva. Doesn't help either that it's Munster that got through as a result. Luke Fitzgerald's return is a plus point though, the bits I've seen of him since his return he's looked really sharp. He's had a tough couple of years but it's easy to forget that he was starting for the Lions in South Africa after his first full season of international rugby not so long ago. Billed by almost everyone involved in Irish rugby as the best talent since O'Drsicoll, some even claimed he was better at 18/19 so hopefully he can kick on from here and finally fulfill his potential.
Hard to see past a clean sweep of home wins in those quarters really. Munster may pull something out of the bag but it's unlikely the way Quinns have been going. Should all be decent games.
Not in the end really as they left themselves with too much to do in the last two rounds of fixtures, but I always held hope they would be able to turn it around. Architects of their own downfall with the performances in the first few rounds but to miss out on tries scored is a big disappointment.
Watched Ulster and Munster's games this evening, didn't see the other two games just the highlights. Thought Ulster were very unlucky, Saracens did nothing really but were clinical. Ulster played all the rugby just made a few mistakes at crucial times. Conceded 10 points from restarts after scoring in the first half, the first try swung it but it shouldn't have stood in the first place so they can feel aggrieved about that. Lineouts were poor, Rory Best seems to be doing his best to play his way out of a Lions test start. Saracens are a drab team really, so negative, just rely on penalties and Farrell's boot to win matches. In fairness it's effective but so poor to watch.
Munster rolled back the years with their win. O'Connell inspired, makes such a difference having him and it bodes well for the Lions if he stays fit. They were far more up for it than Quinns, O'Mahony was running around like a man possessed.
Clermont will fancy their chances against Munster but I don't think Clermont are as invincible as believed. Experience is key at this stage in the competition and Munster have it in abundance with O'Gara and O'Connell. Clermont have never gotten further than the semi's before so it will be interesting. Toulon-Saracens will be a bore I'd say, Wilkinson v Farrell battle of the boots. Would love a wide open game because both sides have exciting backs but I can't really see it happening.
Hope Clermont win today. Would be a victory for rugby. This whole bruting it up in the pack and slotting penalties over all day sickens me really - was always going to be one side out of that Saracens-Toulon semi final that would make it obviously and either of them I'd have been strongly against. Rugby is a 15 man game, not a 10 man game. Clermont have been knocking on the door for so many years, and have suffered a lot of heartache so hopefully they'll cross the line this time.
Lee Byrne and Gethin Jenkins aiming to be the first Welsh Heineken Cup Winner since Gareth Thomas in 2005. Personally hope Clermont win as Jenkins has hardly played for Toulon while Byrne has played a big part in their success. Disappointing he's not played for Wales since getting back to form with Clermont. A more natural full back than Halfpenny in an attacking sense, don't think Halfpenny has fully grasped that part of the game yet, it is a position he is new to though and is still learning and getting better. Byrne was fantastic when on form, angles he used to run were superb.
Robbery yesterday. Didn't deserve it at all, as expected Clermont played all the rugby. Feel very sorry for them, especially Rougerie. Toulon aren't a very likable side in terms of their personnel either - Delon Armitage is the worst of them, face on him scoring that try.. Happy for Wilkinson though, too good a player not have won a European trophy.
Thought Clermont let themselves down really. Got in great positions but kept losing the ball. Don't think Skrela dropped deep enough for the drop goal, they had another 2 chances for the drop after that but decided to throw it out wide. Toulon fantastic defence for the most part but Clermont should have won and could have won but they blew it.