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How Are Leinster And Munster's Opponents Faring Ahead Of The Weekend?

How Are Leinster And Munster's Opponents Faring Ahead Of The Weekend?
By Michael McCarthy

The return of the European rugby always comes as almost a surprise, just two weeks after the end of the Six Nations. The intense nature of the international Championship means the last Saturday of the tournament usually feels like the end of the season. England flatly picking up their trophy in the Aviva Stadium this year, while the Irish celebrated around them made that feeling even more pronounced this year.

Then, just two weeks later, the clubs are back into the biggest game of their season. Again, this year, it's even more pronounced with both Munster and Leinster back in the big time, and back with a real chance having secured home quarter finals.

In the midst of a Six Nations campaign, it's hard enough to keep up with how the Irish provinces are doing  (Leinster are unbeaten since the Stephen's Day loss to Munster and have won their last seven in the Pro 12. Munster have won 10 of their last 11 games. They sit first and second on the Pro 12 table, respectively). So nevermind knowing how their Quarter Final opponents have been going.

When you look at the form of Wasps and Toulouse, it would seem that one province got by far the better end of the deal.

Wasps

The bad news for Leinster is that Wasps are going just as well as them. Their 40-33 win over Donncha O'Callaghan's Worcester Warriors at the weekend, kept them top of the Aviva Premiership and secured them a playoff place before turning their attention to Dublin. It wasn't the most assured of performance though, with Worcester down to 14 men for most of the game, giving up two bonus points to a team who hadn't won an away point all season.

Wasps have two of England's most impressive Six Nations performers Joe Launchbury and Elliot Daly to come back in and James Haskell only played for the first half of the game.

Their recent form is more impressive though. They've won six, drawn one and lost one in their European and Premiership games in 2017. Their 24-3 win away to Bath in their second last game was illustrative of the type of form they can show away from the Ricoh Arena.

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Toulouse

On paper, this is the easier draw for Munster. Toulouse finished behind Wasps in Pool 2 of the tournament and finished ahead of Connacht despite winning less games than them. They lost 23-21 in the Sportsground in their opening pool game, and only managed to beat Zebre away from home.

In the Top-14, things are even worse for the former aristocrats of European rugby. They are languishing in tenth place in the league, having lost four of their last five games. In their last five games away from Toulouse, they've managed just one draw. While that form is far from promising, it's worth noting the table is very tight, and they are only five points off a playoff place, which even at this late stage of the season wouldn't rule them out.

Their last game was a 20-11 defeat away to Bordeaux Begles.

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