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Rugby Union: Ulster could come unstuck in Toulouse

The Champions Cup is back this week, accompanied by a new format for the last-16, with two-legged ties adding an extra layer of intrigue.

The seeding system means the teams who performed well in the pools get to play the return games on their own patch. That said, a big away win can send out a huge message to the rest of the tournament, suggesting those on their travels will not be holding back.

However, for those who struggled previously but are now finding their form, playing at home could give them added confidence and adds to the excitement ahead of what could be a stellar round of fixtures.

Toulouse to turn it on?

Injuries and illness have hindered reigning champions Toulouse this season but their big boys are back in the frame and buoyed by France's Six Nations Grand Slam.

Les Bleus' matchday squad in their final round win over England contained nine Toulouse players and several of them were back on board for last weekend's 19-13 defeat at Castres.

As is often the case for big European games, this fixture has been switched from the Stade Ernest Wallon to the Stadium de Toulouse and they have a happy knack of stepping through the gears at the bigger venues.

Saturday's visitors Ulster took four wins from four in Pool A, most notably an impressive 29-23 victory at Clermont.

However, they've had to trek back from South Africa following URC defeats to the Bulls and the Stormers and fatigue could be a factor.

With Antoine Dupont and Romain Ntamack pulling the strings, Toulouse will be gunning to gain a first-leg win and their currently 10/11 on the handicap seems more than manageable.

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Exeter to expose Munster uncertainty

When your captain publically urges your board for clarity on who will be in charge of his side next season, questions are bound to be asked.

The December news that Johann van Graan would be leaving Munster to take over at Bath at the end of the season raised eyebrows and with a decision over his successor yet to be made, skipper Peter O'Mahony has publicly admitted that the uncertainty is hindering his side.

Add in the fact they are also without Gavin Coombes, Tadhg Beirne, David Kilcoyne and Andrew Conway and their task against Exeter grows in stature.

Rob Baxter's side, European champions in 2020, won both of their home games in Pool A at a canter and warmed up for Saturday's game with a 42-22 thumping of Bath.

Are they coming good at the right time? It seems so, and they will feel the need to build a lead ahead of the return leg at Thomond Park.

While Six Nations selections have not helped Munster, there's no hiding that they have lost three of their last four and the Van Graan situation is clearly an issue.

Exeter are understandably the 1/2 favourites and everything considered, a win on the two-way handicap at 1/1 might not be too far away.

Quins could take statement win

With four wins from four in Pool B, Harlequins showed signs of transferring last season's domestic success onto the European stage and they look like they could have too much for Montpellier over two legs.

Both of Montpellier's Pool A victories came at home, beating Exeter 37-26 in the final round. However, their first win was courtesy of a call off, but that being said, they are far happier on home turf at the Altrad Stadium, with them unbeaten there since October.

Philippe Saint-Andre's men are 4/7 to win on Sunday but will need to be at their very best against a superb Harlequins side.

Quins ran in seven tries in Sunday's 41-14 win at London Irish and have already won in France this season, triumphing 20-18 at Castres in December.

A first leg victory in Occitanie is available at 11/8 and it could prove the price of the weekend.

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