Paris (AFP)

There will inevitably be a French club in the semi-final of the European Rugby Cup: Clermont and Racing 92 face each other on Saturday in the quarter-finals before Toulouse challenges the Irish from Ulster the next day.

Interrupted by the pandemic, the European Cup therefore resumes its rights after two weeks of Top 14, with quarters on Saturday and Sunday and the halves the following week.

The final will take place on October 17.

And there will therefore be a reunion for the Franco-French shock of this "final 8" with rugby flavor: it is indeed the fifth time that Clermontois and Racingmen have met in the Champions Cup.

Parisians have won on three occasions.

The last time was a 28-17 victory in 2018 at the Stade Marcel-Michelin, already in the quarter-finals.

The statistics are leaning towards Sky and White but not only ... The recent form makes Racing 92 the big favorite of this 100% Top 14 quarter.

The oiled game of the Racingmen, carried by the fantastic Finn Russell, impressed, both in Lyon (27-23) and in front of Montpellier (41-17).

"We still have things to settle, including physical form", nuance yet the Scottish opener to AFP.

“The championship resumed two weeks ago but the European Cup was clearly on everyone's minds. We knew we had the quarterfinal approaching. It's such a game, it was not easy not to think about it, ”he adds.

The Jaunards, them, stammered their rugby, scare themselves in front of Toulouse (33-30) before tripping over the carpet in Bayonne (21-19).

And, with the gauge reduced to 5,000 spectators, not sure that the Marcel-Michelin volcano is melting.

- Dupont and Ntamack -

"Playing in front of 5,000 spectators is unusual for them. But it is Clermont. We know that over there, the riffles will be stormed as soon as the warm-up", tempers Maxime Machenaud.

A "special and unusual" match, according to ASM captain Morgan Parra.

Because this chopper match, usually played in April, comes early in the season.

"The match remains the match. The stake remains the stake," explains Racingman Teddy Iribaren, who has not forgotten that Clermont has not lost at home in the European Cup since April 2018.

And too bad if the flagship rookie of the summer on the side of Racing, the Australian Kurtley Beale (suspension), is absent.

The Japanese from Clermont Kotaro Matsushima, he is there.

Watch out for the show!

For its part, Stade Toulouse, semi-finalist last season, will therefore face Ulster.

After six victories in as many matches during the group stage, the Red and Black saw their momentum cut off by the pandemic.

On resumption, the Toulouse started strong, going with two fingers and three small points to overthrow Clermont before eating La Rochelle (39-23).

A big blow against the recent finalist of the Pro 14 would bring the Toulouse Stadium and its hinge in blue Antoine Dupont-Romain Ntamack closer to a first European coronation since 2010.

The other shock of the day on Saturday opposes Leinster, untouchable winner of the Pro 14 (25 matches without defeat), to the Saracens, title holders.

A rematch of the 2019 final in which Owen Farrell will not participate, suspended for five weeks for a dangerous tackle.

Finally, Exeter, leader of the English championship, receives Northampton.

The Chiefs of Scotland's Stuart Hogg seem to start off largely favorites, especially as the Saints face a crisis on the front line and only have two pillars: Emmanuel Iyogun, a 19-year-old kid, and Alex Seville, who landed in emergency loan from Gloucester ... Not ideal for preparing for a European quarter-final.

© 2020 AFP