Eight mouth-watering head to heads in the Champions Cup quarter-finals this weekend

Eight mouth-watering head to heads in the Champions Cup quarter-finals this weekend

Just eight teams remain in the Champions Cup as they take the field this weekend to narrow that number to just four. 

We have picked out eight of the best head to heads to keep an eye on with the action kicking off at the Stade Marcel-Deflandre before concluding at the Stade de Marcel Michelin. 


 
 

Pierre Bourgarit v Akker van der Merwe - La Rochelle v Sale Sharks

Two hookers with extremely similar approaches to the game. Pierre Bourgarit and Akker van der Merwe are both abrasive and effective ball carriers willing and able to break through defences and score long-range tries but are just as strong in close.


Bourgarit is well within the mix with the French national team but struggling to grab good minutes while Akker van der Merwe is in the kind of form that may just get him a look back into the Springbok squad.

The two both have their shortcomings at set-piece time and have made improvements in recent games in that department. This clash will definitely be entertaining. 


Update to the latest version of the Ultimate Rugby app here

 
Levani Botia v Rohan Janse van Rensburg - La Rochelle v Sale Sharks
 
Botia was a standout for La Rochelle in their victory over Gloucester to book their place in the quarter-finals with head coach Ronan O'Gara simply stating “I don't think there's an inside centre in the world who can play the way he plays."
 
Lining up opposite of Botia this weekend is Sale's Janse van Rensburg, who is a different player from his Fijian opposite but the pair share an incredible ability to power through tackles and get the offload away.
 
 
The two players running full tilt into one another will certainly be a sight to behold.




Joe Simmonds v Jonathan Sexton - Exeter Chiefs v Leinster

If there was a time for Joe Simmonds to step up and make a massive statement for test recognition, there would be no better time than Saturday. The uncapped 24-year-old Exeter captain faces off against the veteran Leinster and Ireland captain in Jonathan Sexton. 

Sexton is one of the best game managing flyhalves in world rugby and if Simmonds is able to rattle the veteran flyhalf, then Eddie Jones may just be convinced enough to give him a shot - especially if Owen Farrell and potentially George Ford are away with the Lions. Sexton, meanwhile, will be looking to extend his good run of form that has him firmly in the conversation for a starting lines jersey.

Update to the latest version of the Ultimate Rugby app here

Sam Simmonds v Jack Conan - Exeter Chiefs v Leinster

Two players that don't need too much introduction but simply put they are both in stellar form. 

Both are excellent with ball in hand and just as effective on defence. Simmonds has starred on defence in the Champions Cup this season and heads into the quarter-finals having won more turnovers (6) than any other player and has completed 18/18 tackles and averaged six metres gained per carry, the fourth-best rate by a forward (14+ carries)

 
 
Yoram Moefana v Virimi Vakatawa - Bordeaux v Racing 92
 

Another head to head in the centres that will definitely be worth keeping an eye on. Louis Picamoles v Jordan Joseph would have been one of the picks of the round but the former French International is not registered for the Champions Cup for Bordeaux. Therefore, we will settle the other battle of the young v the experienced. 
 
Vakatawa is currently the first choice French outside centre and 20-year-old Moefana is very much the future for Les Bleus. The now 20-year-old was the first player born in the 2000s to represent France when he debuted off the bench against Italy. His promise was even further displayed when he produced a strong outing in the starting XV against England a week later in the final of the Autumn Nations Cup.
 
Vakatawa banks on his speed and power paired with his offloading ability while Moefana's game resembles that of Wesley Fofana with his speed, agility and deceptive strength. The youngster did feature on the wing in the round of 16 win over Bristol but with Santiago Cordero back this weekend, he slots back into the centres.

Update to the latest version of the Ultimate Rugby app here

Cameron Woki v Wenceslas Lauret - Bordeaux v Racing 92

Cameron Woki is yet another young star in France that is pushing for more minutes in the test jersey. He fronts up against the experienced Wenceslas Lauret.

With both teams fielding strong forward packs on Sunday, the likes of Woki and Lauret will be key in trying to force turnovers and alternatively creating quick ball for their side.

Both players are strong defensively and can be physically dominant. 

Damian Penaud v Matthis Lebel - Clermont v Toulouse

 
Speaking ahead of the clash with Clermont, Toulouse head coach Ugo Mola said: “Their victory over Wasps in the 82nd minute shows great character, but we will go there with a lot of confidence and with Damian Penaud, who is playing out of this world.”
 
On his day, Damian Penaud is one of the most lethal wingers in world rugby and showed that with France, although he did have a below standard game against Wasps. 
 
Meanwhile, Matthis Lebel is improving his stock in France with yet another stellar outing against Munster. Lebel has been called up to French training squads before but the 22-year-old could make a real statement with a bright game against Les Bleus' incumbent right-winger. 
 
 


 
Camille Lopez v Romain Ntamack - Clermont v Toulouse
 
 
Once again, it's another battle of the old v the new. 
 
 
Lopez was the starting Les Bleus pivot ahead of the Rugby World Cup in Japan before Ntamack usurped from the role. 
 
 
Since then, Lopez hasn't got a look back into the French squad while Ntamack has been the first choice in the role, when fit.
 
 
The Clermont flyhalf has been in excellent form for his club and guided the side to victory over Wasps. 
 
 
On paper, the teams look extremely well-matched and the two flyhalves' accuracy off the tee could be the decider. 
 
 
 
   
     
   

                   

 
 
 
 
 

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