Champions Cup Quarterfinals: 5 Players To Watch

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The battle for Europe is now down to 8 sides, and even props are capable of the math, which dictates that at the end of the weekend there will be only 4. As the Irish, Welsh, and Scottish clubs, all of whom usually manage some sort of representation, reel from their shocking exits the best of the Top 14 and Premiership prepare for their clash. Europe’s biggest prize is on the line, and the pressure is on. Here are the 5 players we expect to step up in this high pressure environment.

Elliot Daly, Wasps:

The 23 year old represents the new generation for Wasps. He has stood by his side through the worst of times, and is a major part of their success now, in the best of times. While the England accolades have not come just yet, there is no doubt that they will be there before long. Daly has incredible vision, and his pace allows him to create mismatches all over the field. Versatile as the day is long, Daly has played all over the pitch for Wasps, but there is no doubt that he is at home in the 13 jersey. Wasps keep Daly involved as often as possible, so expect to see him get plenty of chances to take on the Exeter defence.

Billy Vunipola, Saracens:

Vunipola has been outstanding so far this season. He looks to have increased his mobility, yet he has lost none of his dominant power with ball in hand. He was undoubtedly England’s best player in the 6 Nations, and we were shocked that he did not win player of the tournament. Vunipola carries the ball with no fear, and he gets his side across the gainline time and time again. Saracens love to use him in the 10 channel, either as a decoy runner or as a battering ram, and few can stop the 280 pound behemoth once he is through the defence.

Manu Tuilagi, Leicester Tigers:

Tuilagi has been plagued with injuries over the last two years, and it looked as though he would be joining Luke Fitzgerald, Cian Healy, and Joe Launchbury in the “Super Talented But Never Fit” bin. However, Tuilagi has returned this season, and since then has re-emerged as the dominant force he was before injury. His physicality is on display for every minute he is on the field, and when combined with Peter Betham and Telusa Veanu he has brought this Tigers backline back to its former glory. If Leicester are to move on, it will only be through a big showing from Tuilagi.

Dan Carter, Racing 92:

Racing are the first side in position to stop Toulon from winning a historic 4th consecutive European title. They also are one of the best equipped teams to do just that, with legendary All Blacks flyhalf Dan Carter on their team sheet. Unlike his All Black teammate Ma’a Nonu or Wallaby rival Quade Cooper, Carter has taken to his task in Europe with aplomb, putting on highlight reel performances time and time again. If Racing are able to keep themselves within touching distance of Toulon throughout the match, there are few better than Carter to step up in the latter stages of a match. A Rugby World Cup and a European Champions Cup title in the same year would be a pretty good haul, and a fitting end to the career of such a legendary player.

Owen Farrell, Saracens:

Contrary to popular expectation, Farrell has flourished since the departure of his father from the England setup. We are kidding of course, Farrell has been a quality player from a young age, and he has been in sensational form this season. His attacking play has improved dramatically this season, leading to Saracens unprecedented dominance of both the Premiership and the Champions Cup. If Farrell continues to play as he has been, Northampton could be in for a very long day on Saturday.

Aidan Clarke
Media Intern from America.

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