Blair Kinghorn, Romain Ntamack in Toulouse return as Champions Cup last 16 serves up all-French clash and some deja vu

Your guide to a weekend jam-packed full of top-class European rugby action

There are nine former winners involved in the last 16 of the Investec Champions Cup this weekend and it would take a brave person to bet against one of them lifting the trophy again at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium on May 25.

Nobody has won this tournament more than Toulouse and they will be involved in one of the round’s stand-out ties when they host Top 14 rivals Racing 92 on Sunday. The home side are boosted by the return from injury of several key players, including Scotland full-back Blair Kinghorn.

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Kinghorn missed the recent league matches against Pau and Bordeaux due to a hamstring issue but will start at 15 against Racing at Stade Ernest Wallon. The former Edinburgh man has been a valuable contributor for Toulouse in the Champions Cup this season, starting in all four of their pool stage victories, against Cardiff, Harlequins, Ulster and Bath, and scoring a try double against the Welsh side.

Blair Kinghorn in action for Toulouse in their win over Bath in the Investec Champions Cup.  (Photo by Dave Winter/INPHO/Shutterstock)Blair Kinghorn in action for Toulouse in their win over Bath in the Investec Champions Cup.  (Photo by Dave Winter/INPHO/Shutterstock)
Blair Kinghorn in action for Toulouse in their win over Bath in the Investec Champions Cup. (Photo by Dave Winter/INPHO/Shutterstock)

Romain Ntamack, who came off the bench against Pau, is picked at fly-half and will start his first match since suffering a serious knee injury against Scotland in Saint-Etienne in August which caused him to miss the Rugby World Cup. Ntamack’s return allows Antoine Dupont to moved back to scrum-half after filling in at 10.

Racing 92 have reached three Champions Cup finals without lifting the top prize and they are hoping the recruitment of double World Cup-winning captain Siya Kolisi can help push them over the line. The South Africa captain returns to face Toulouse after a month out with a thumb injury and knows his side face the toughest of tasks against the five-time winners who have lost just three times at home in the competition’s history. “They set the standard in the French league, so much history,” Kolisi told the French press. “It’s a perfect opportunity for us to see what we can do against them.”

This is the second season of South African teams participating and there are two in the last 16. The Stormers, inaugural URC winners in 2022 and runners-up last year, take on La Rochelle in Cape Town. The Champions Cup holders have already played the Stormers in the pool stage, losing out 21-20 after a last-gasp Manie Libbok conversion, and Saturday’s game promises to be another tough test of the French side’s credentials in their quest for a third consecutive triumph.

The Bulls welcome Lyon to Loftus Versfeld in another South African-French clash and, again, the sides have already met in the group. Lyon edged that one 29-28 at home but the Bulls will be favourites in Pretoria.

There’s also a sense of deja vu about Saturday’s match between Leinster and Leicester. The Irish side beat their English opponents 27-10 in a Pool D game at Welford Road in January and the spate of rematches has caused Leicester coach Dan McKellar to question the competition’s new format. His frustration has been exacerbated by the fact that if his team win they will face either the Stormers or La Rochelle in next week’s quarter-finals. The Tigers have already played both in the pool phase. “Someone has not got something right when they were planning the competition,” said McKellar.

Elsewhere, there is a re-run of the 2000 final as Munster head to English Premiership leaders Northampton on Sunday. Saints came out on top 9-8 at Twickenham on that occasion.

Finn Russell’s Bath are involved in a West Country derby at Exeter Chiefs on Saturday. Rob Baxter’s side have gone off the boil in recent weeks and although Bath lost to Harlequins last weekend, they finished the match strongly and will fancy their chances at Sandy Park.

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Bordeaux, one of five French teams in the last 16, welcome three-time champions Saracens to Stade Chaban-Delmas and whoever emerges victorious from this tie will face the winners of Harlequins v Glasgow in the quarter-finals.

Investec Champions Cup round of 16

Friday (5 April)

Harlequins v Glasgow Warriors (8pm)

Saturday (6 April)

Vodacom Bulls v Lyon (12.30pm)

DHL Stormers v Stade Rochelais (3pm)

Exeter Chiefs v Bath (3pm)

Union Bordeaux-Bègles v Saracens (5.30pm)

Leinster v Leicester Tigers (8pm)

Sunday (7 April)

Northampton Saints v Munster (12.30pm)

Stade Toulousain v Racing 92 (3pm)



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