The draw for the last eight of Europe's premier Rugby competition has been made and there are some terrific clashes in prospect. The matches, which will take place between the 6th and 8th of April, bring together some of the most powerful forces in the sport whilst reigniting a few old rivalries. As expected the last eight is dominated by Irish and French sides with three of the quarter finalist hailing from the provinces of Ireland and two coming from the French Top 14. One English club (Saracens), one Scottish (Edinburgh) and one Welsh (Cardiff Blues) complete the draw.
What makes this year's last eight so thrilling is how difficult it is to pick a favourite. Though many pundits are picking Leinster, whose breath-taking back line play throughout the group stage had some wags talking about them as the best European team ever assembled, to retain their crown, it is no foregone conclusion and they will face stern opposition in Cardiff Blues. Blues have had a shaky season in the RaboDirect Pro 12 but they never fail to put up a fight when it matters.
The other popular pick this year is Toulouse who sit atop the Top 14 and travel to Edinburgh in the quarters. Though dominant when at peak form, Toulouse's air of invincibility in the early parts of the season did come under scrutiny following their losses to Gloucester and Harlequins in the group stages and they face an Edinburgh side who went through as winners of a very tricky pool.
The possible tie of the round sees Munster and Ulster square off at Thomand Park. In recent years these two Irish powerhouses have both found themselves in the shadows of their rivals from the big city Leinster but both will see this as the season to turn the European tide back in their favour. Munster will be favourites to go through, as the only team in the competition with a 100% win record, as they took all six matches in the Group stage.
The final tie sees English champions Saracens host Clermont at Vicarage Road. It is a difficult one to call – the French side proved their chops by coming out on top in a bruising pool which featured Leicester and Ulster, while the English side will feel they have plenty to prove having never won a European title.
All in all it looks like there will be some scintillating Rugby played all over Europe this April.