It is time for our weekly round-up of who has their name in lights at the moment… and who is making the headlines for the wrong reasons.
They’re on fire!
Clermont and Toulon: The safe money is on an all-French European Champions Cup Final at Twickenham on May 2 in a repeat of the 2013 showdown in Dublin. The French duo are potentially the big winners of the semi-final venue draw with both set to enjoy home-country advantage if they win their respective quarter-finals against Northampton and Wasps.
Racing Metro: Few were expecting that result at Franklin’s Gardens. The Paris side dominated Northampton, who were a shadow of the high-class team that has impressed throughout this season. Jamie Roberts was Man of the Match but it could have been any number of Racing players, who silenced critics of French sides on the road. Top spot in Pool 5 and top seeds in the quarter-finals. Now can they sustain this form?
Leinster: The only Pro12 team still alive in the Champions Cup. With a home quarter-final thanks to hard-earned draw at Wasps, the three-time European champions carry the hopes of Ireland on their shoulders.
Bath and Wasps: Kudos to these two English clubs for pulling their European campaigns from the fire, making it into the quarter-finals despite losing their first two games. All four English teams will, however, be on the road in April.
Darren Cave and Ulster: Pride was on the line for Ulster in their tournament finale and boy did they restore plenty of that as the Tigers were dominated at Ravenhill. Ulster were the more streetwise and organised side as Cave’s hat-trick of tries stood out in their win. Injuries have been a problem for them this season but with players filtering back and Cave leading like this, they’ll now target the PRO12.
Nick Easter and Danny Cipriani: Their respective club coaches and most of the media got their wish on Wednesday when Stuart Lancaster named both Easter and Cipriani in his training group ahead of the Six Nations. Easter could well feature in the Championship but it remains to be seen if Cipriani can push himself into the 23. Some have questioned whether his inclusion in the training squad – as a fourth fly-half – was just to keep the masses happy and in fairness it will be mighty difficult to usurp George Ford and Owen Farrell from the pecking order.
Sam Hidalgo-Clyne: What a week for Edinburgh’s 21-year-old scrum-half! 72 hours after being named in Scotland’s Six Nations squad he scored 28 points – including two tries – in Friday’s 38-20 Challenge Cup win over Bordeaux B