first_imgShare on Pinterest Quick guide European rugby reaches the knockout stages Share on Facebook Pinterest Team of the weekend15 Johnny McNicholl Scarlets14 Simon Zebo Racing 9213 Garry Ringrose Leinster12 Brad Barritt Saracens11 Duhan van der Merwe Edinburgh10 Finn Russell Racing 929 Ali Price Glasgow1 Pierre Schoeman Edinburgh2 Stuart McInally Edinburgh3 Tadhg Furlong Leinster4 Maro Itoje Saracens5 Tadhg Beirne Munster6 Peter O’Mahony Munster7 Don Armand Exeter8 CJ Stander MunsterQuote of the weekend”Considering the number of concussions I have suffered, and above that the amount of time it takes to shake off the symptoms afterwards, it is better to avoid the risk of further head injuries. We have tried rest, medication, neck treatment, jaw treatment, eye rehabilitation, multivitamins, and now I am to avoid any strenuous exercise and sports that require contact” – Pat Lambie, the South Africa and Racing 92 fly-half, explains his retirement with immediate effect at the age of 28Three figures don’t add upNot one but two centuries chalked up in the final round of pool stage matches in the Challenge Cup, with both Northampton and Bristol hitting three figures. Such one-sided matches are not a good look for anybody and raise a number of questions, not least over player welfare. The two teams on the receiving end – Timisoara Saracens and Enisei-STM – were the two two qualifiers from the Continental Shield, a tournament struggling to get enough teams to take part.Artificial pitches point up contrastFour matches this weekend took place on artificial pitches and yielded 30 tries, six more than were scored in the other six on grass. It is too simplistic a view to put that statistic entirely down to the playing surface – Munster versus Exeter was hardly going to be a try-fest – but it is not completely coincidental either. In English rugby’s recent injury audit it emerged that players are at more of a risk on artificial surfaces, a concerning trend indeed, but the benefits are also clear.By Gerard Meagher Show Exeter … we have a small favour to ask. More people, like you, are reading and supporting the Guardian’s independent, investigative journalism than ever before. And unlike many news organisations, we made the choice to keep our reporting open for all, regardless of where they live or what they can afford to pay. Whether we are up close or further away, the Guardian brings our readers a global perspective on the most critical issues of our lifetimes – from the escalating climate catastrophe to widespread inequality to the influence of big tech on our lives. We believe complex stories need context in order for us to truly understand them. At a time when factual information is a necessity, we believe that each of us, around the world, deserves access to accurate reporting with integrity at its heart.Our editorial independence means we set our own agenda and voice our own opinions. Guardian journalism is free from commercial and political bias and not influenced by billionaire owners or shareholders. This means we can give a voice to those less heard, explore where others turn away, and rigorously challenge those in power.We hope you will consider supporting us today. We need your support to keep delivering quality journalism that’s open and independent. Every reader contribution, however big or small, is so valuable. Support The Guardian from as little as $1 – and it only takes a minute. Thank you. Read more Munster Photograph: Stickland/INPHO/REX/Shutterstock/Rex Features Was this helpful? Facebook Hide Thank you for your feedback. Twitter Rugby union Share on WhatsApp Support The Guardian Reuse this content Leinster Quick guide Champions Cup verdict Rugby union: talking points from the weekend’s action Was this helpful?center_img Champions Cup Share on Messenger Share on LinkedIn Share via Email Pool 3: Saracens look likeliest to down LeinsterSaracens matched the pool tally of their first European title in 2016 with 28 points out of 30, a figure also achieved by Clermont and Harlequins in 2013. Only Biarritz have registered more, 29 in 2007. Second to them that season were Northampton, whom they drew in the quarter-finals. Northampton beat them. Second to Saracens here are Glasgow whom they play in the quarters in late March. Glasgow now are better than Northampton were then. Still, a Glasgow win would register as a significant upset. Saracens look the team best equipped to challenge Leinster. The Blues flickered but too fitfully. Lyon played the role of uninterested French team. Michael AylwinSaracens into last eight as top seeds after beating Glasgow Champions Cup quarter-finalsSaracens v GlasgowEdinburgh v MunsterRacing 92 v ToulouseLeinster v Ulster The Breakdown: sign up and get our weekly rugby union email. Tempers boil over between players who will be reacquainted in March. Photograph: Ryan Byrne/INPHO/REX/Shutterstock Wasps Pool 4: Ulster show Welsh teams how it’s doneFor both Scarlets and Leicester to end up losing five of their six pool games is a sign of the European times. The Tigers have now failed to finish in the top half of their pool for three successive seasons; there is also no Welsh representation in the last eight of either of Europe’s two competitions this season. Scarlets, gallant 46-33 losers in Paris in round six, scored the same number of pool tries as Ulster but the Irish province won no fewer than five matches en route to the quarter-finals. A free-wheeling Racing side are proving a spirited exception to the rule but, for the most part, a resilient set-piece and a tight, well-marshalled defence are key to success in the modern Europe. Robert KitsonRobert Kitson: Irish clubs have depth but Saracens can reach finalPool 5: Edinburgh highlight Cockerill’s credentialsThere would rarely be a dull moment if Richard Cockerill were appointed England’s next head coach. It remains an unlikely proposition but Cockerill’s work in the Scottish capital cannot be overstated. Montpellier have a hulking pack but Edinburgh scrummaged them off the Murrayfield park and responded superbly to going behind early in the second half. They advance top of the pool and earn a home quarter-final to boot, a fine achievement considering the pool contained the three-times winners Toulon and a Newcastle side who won their first two matches. The Falcons slipped to a narrow defeat but there were signs of recovery for the Premiership’s bottom side. Gerard MeagherEdinburgh sink Montpellier to qualify for quarter-finals Show Challenge Cup quarter-finalsClermont Auvergne v NorthamptonWorcester v HarlequinsSale v ConnachtLa Rochelle v Bristol• All ties to be played 29/30/31 March Since you’re here… features Saracens Irish clubs have strength in depth but Saracens can reach European final Thank you for your feedback. Topics Pool 1: Robson offers Wasps some consolationDan Robson’s performance for Wasps was one of the few shining lights on what was a difficult day for the home side, even if they avoided the thrashing they received in Dublin. He looks back to the kind of form he began the season in before the injury that denied him a first cap in autumn struck.Robson’s try, selling Andrew Porter a fine dummy before racing to the line, was a demonstration of what he can bring, most likely off the bench, for England and Eddie Jones, who was watching in the stands. Bath can take heart from their performance in a scrappy match at Toulouse, even if the French side may have had a reason to avoid pressing for the bonus points. Both English sides have much to do in the Premiership, though, so will be somewhat relieved that forgettable European campaigns are over. Gerard MeagherLeinster cruise past Wasps and train sights on Ulster Share on Twitter Pool 2: Exeter find Europe a tougher nut to crackEddie Jones remarked last week that rugby tended to oscillate between eras of contest and continuity, with the former currently in vogue. Exeter have based their success in the Premiership on being able to retain possession for long periods but have struggled to make the same impact in Europe where the breakdown is more of a contest. Their latest campaign came to grief at Thomond Park in a match that was unsparingly physical and played at a furious pace. Exeter were on the front foot for long periods but were undone by Tadhg Beirne at the breakdown. Munster’s victory made it eight wins in nine for Irish sides over the Premiership ahead of Leinster’s win at Wasps. Paul ReesCarbery helps Munster kick Chiefs out of Europe Hide last_img