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Stephen Ferris previews Champions Cup quarter-finals including Exeter v Leinster

| 09.04.2021

The Champions Cup is hotting up. Europe’s premier club competition reaches its quarter-final stage with some some mouth-watering match-ups including Exeter against Leinster.

We caught up with former Ireland international Stephen Ferris to get his thoughts and tips ahead of the weekend’s action.

You can check out the latest Champions Cup odds here.

La Rochelle v Sale – 3pm Saturday 10th April

There has been a lot of hype around French rugby due to some of the flair we all witnessed during the Six Nations.

This hype has now continued into the club game with five out of the eight teams in the Champions Cup quarter-finals being French.

First up is La Rochelle who were superb against Gloucester last week, and Ronan O’Gara seems to have his team humming and playing a brand of rugby which is awesome to watch.

Levani Botia who was wearing the 12 jersey last weekend was on another level. Victor Vito, Will Skelton and Dany Priso have so much power and physicality, just gargantuan men.

The team is playing with a confidence that you don’t normally associate with French teams in this tournament which is very refreshing. La Rochelle are a dangerous animal and I expect them to take a few bites out of Sale Sharks and send them back home fatally wounded.

Sale have a fighting chance according to the odds at Ladbrokes. It’s only a six point handicap and Sale is 15/8 to win this one away from home. I think the odds are a lot closer than I expected because of Sale’s resounding win last week against the Scarlets.

Scoring over 50 points and having key players like Faf de Klerk and Tom Curry in form will give all their fans hope. But in my opinion, hope will not be enough to get the victory.

Stephen’s betting tip

La Rochelle -6 at 10/11

Exeter v Leinster – 5.30pm Saturday 10th April

The game of the weekend surely? The kings of England and Europe against the four-in-a-row Pro 14 champions. Two of the biggest heavyweights going toe to toe, it will be an incredible watch.

Rob Baxter who has taken Exeter from the Championship to the Premiership will have his team dialled in for this one. This is win or bust. This is do or die.

Exeter have plenty of pedigree in their ranks and have shown a consistent winning mentality for the last few seasons.

If it hadn’t been for Saracens then Exeter would have a lot more silverware in the trophy cabinets at Sandy Park in the south of England. They are a resilient bunch who fight to the end of every game they play, and coupled with extreme accuracy, you have a very capable team who can definitely beat the mighty Leinster.

Stuart Hogg has been an excellent signing for Exeter, however it’s the Exeter pack of forwards who are always impressive. Winning the arm wrestle up front will go a long way to deciding the outcome of this match.

It’s a full international team that Leinster can put out. All their Irish internationals are fresh from a week off after the Toulon debacle and I’m sure are ready and raring to go.

I can’t see Tadhg Furlong, Cian Healy and Ronan Kelleher being out scrummaged. I can’t see Devin Toner, James Ryan and co being taken apart come lineout time. Luke McGrath and Jonny Sexton at half backs rarely have bad games. Henshaw and Keenan are in the form of their lives. But Leinster haven’t been tested by a world class team since their last European defeat against Saracens, it’s been too easy for too long.

I think this is a one point game with Leinster being the favourites. Exeter will be scratching their heads wondering how they are underdogs considering they are the reigning European champs and playing at home.

Exeter are 10 wins and five loses in their domestic league and have shown vulnerabilities during the season. Even last week Lyon managed to rack up 25 points, and I’m pretty confident that if Exeter leaked more soft tries that Leinster would win this one.

Lots of people say the Pro 14 standard isn’t as good as the Premiership. This debate will be settled on Saturday night.

Stephen’s betting tip

Leinster -1 at 10/11

Bordeaux v Racing 92 – 12.30pm Sunday 11th April

A controversial win from Bordeaux last weekend against Bristol who are the high flyers of the Premiership.

It was a game full of penalties and the referee certainly was the star of the show, or as some of the Bristol fans might say… a horror show!

So many decisions went the way of the home side, however they did bring a huge physicality in.

Their defensive system which challenged the ruck area specifically and Bristol just could not get clean ball on a consistent basis. Credit has to be given to the Bordeaux game plan which got them over the winning line.

Racing 92 have lots of superstars in their squad. They seem to be able to field an exciting team week in and week out.

A squad with quality and quantity is a good recipe to have if you want to go far in the Champions Cup. Beaten finalists last year, this Racing 92 team will have learnt an awful lot from that defeat and will fancy their chances of challenging once again.

Bordeaux won in Paris in the last game between these two, but then Racing 92 won in Bordeaux the game before that. Both very close games and I expect this one to be no different. These are the games that the big players show their worth. For me Racing 92 have a few more big game players and that’s why I’m edging towards an away win

Stephen’s betting tip

Racing -3 at 10/11

Clermont v Toulouse – 3pm Saturday 10th April

In the last eighteen meetings between these two French power houses, Clermont have won nine and Toulouse have won eight, with one draw.

In the Top 14 Clermont has scored 74 tries and Toulouse 75. So both teams are very evenly matched on a lot of the stats, but will Toulouse fall to a Clermont team who are usually untouchable at the Stade Marcel Michelin?

With snow and rain forecast and conditions to be tough, you have to favour Toulouse who have a pack of forwards who can roll their sleeves up when the going gets tough. Going away from home last weekend and beating a valiant Munster is a statement to the rest of the teams left in the competition.

Antione Dupont and Romain Ntmack can produce moments of magic, but they can also control a game very well, playing the game in the right areas of the pitch and applying pressure at key times.

The Kiwi All Black, Jerome Kaino, will be wanting to finish his career on a high with winning a trophy in Toulouse colours. Although his opposite number, Fritz Lee will be wanting to spoil the fairytale ending. This is just one of the head to head battles that I’m excited to watch.

You have to look at the history books when it comes to knockout rugby. Clermont have fallen so many times over the last decade when it comes to one off games. Always the bridesmaid, never the bride has been said on numerous occasions about Clermont and something tells me that they will fall short once again this season.

They squeezed home 27-25 against Wasps last week with a last minute try by Matsushima. Clermont can’t rely on a moment of brilliance to make it through to the semi-finals this week.

Stephen’s betting tip

Toulouse -3 at 10/11

Stephen’s four-fold Acca picks

La Rochelle -6 at 10/11

Leinster 4/5

Racing -3 at 10/11

Toulouse 8/13

Total odds: 10/1

View the latest Champions Cup odds.

All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.