England’s best at home

England's three remaining Heineken Cup challengers will all have home advantage in the quarter-finals this season. [more]

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England’s three remaining Heineken Cup challengers will all have home advantage in the quarter-finals this season.

Saracens, London Irish and Gloucester secured home ties as the respective top three seeds.

Saracens will host Gavin Henson’s Ospreys, while Irish take on Perpignan at the Madejski Stadium and Gloucester take on 2006 European champions Munster at the Kingsholm Stadium.

The quarter-final picture is completed by Cardiff Blues visiting three-time European champions Toulouse. The ties are to be played on April 4, 5 and 6.

Pool Four winners Saracens can look forward to a dress rehearsal against the Ospreys on March 22, when they meet the Welsh side in this season’s EDF Energy Cup semi-finals at the Millennium Stadium.

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The Ospreys qualified, along with Perpignan, as a best runner-up after beating French hosts Bourgoin 28-14 today in their final Pool Two game.

Irish, Pool One top dogs, face a swift rematch against Perpignan.

The teams have already met twice this term in their qualifying section, with both games being won by the home side.

The undoubted major quarter-final tie though, is Gloucester’s appointment with Munster.

Gloucester, the current Guinness Premiership leaders, beat Munster on the Irish side’s two previous Heineken Cup west country visits, but lost both return fixtures in Limerick, conceding more than 30 points on each occasion.

The Premiership clubs are looking to match last year’s achievement when England provided three semi-finalists – Wasps, Northampton and Leicester – with Wasps and Leicester going on to contest the Heineken Cup’s first all-English final.

Cardiff, meanwhile, despite an impressive 17-0 victory over Memorial Stadium hosts Bristol today, will be outsiders against a side of Toulouse’s rich European pedigree.

Bristol head coach Richard Hill, who praised the Blues after ending his team’s four-month unbeaten home record, said: "Toulouse are a very good side with a multitude of attacking threats.

"If Cardiff win down there, it will rank as the best victory in their history.

"It is not an impossible task, but it is not a fixture you would want."

The Blues, though, will relish their trip to southern France.
Head coach David Young said: "We would have rather played Toulouse at home – no-one will give us a chance down there.

"But there is no reason why we can’t get a result. We will look forward to it.

"We are not in the quarter-finals to make the numbers up."
In the second-tier European Challenge Cup, all four quarter-final ties will see English sides at home.

Top seeds Worcester, who are still without a Premiership win this season, entertain Montpellier, while Sale Sharks host Brive and Newcastle entertain Castres.

Bath, beaten Challenge Cup finalists last term, face a home game against Premiership strugglers Leeds Carnegie, with the ties also due to be played on April 4, 5 and 6.

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