Saints left to fly the flag for England

NORTHAMPTON will lock horns with old foes Munster again after being left to carry the English flag alone in the Heineken Cup quarter-finals.

The Saints qualified for the last eight as one of the best runners up after finishing behind the two-time champions in the Pool stages.

But Jim Mallinder’s men are back on the plane for the daunting trip to Limerick again next month – only this time with a place in the semi-final at stake.

The Saints, who defeated Munster at Twickenham to win the Heineken Cup in 2000, are the only qualifiers from the Guinness Premiership, representing the worst performance by English clubs in the 14 seasons they have competed.

In contrast, the draw features four French sides for the first time since the 1998/99 campaign after Toulouse beat Sale 19-13 yesterday to displace Clermont Auvergne in clinching a home draw.

Toulouse take on fellow Top 14 side Stade Francais in the last four, while Clermont have been paired with defending champions Leinster.

Welsh side Ospreys must travel to 2006 finalists Biarritz but only if they can escape possible disqualification from European Rugby Cup chiefs after they were found to be fielding 16 players at one stage in their victory over Leicester Tigers on Saturday.

Gloucester, meanwhile, clinched their place in the Challenge Cup after their 32-23 victory at Newport Gwent Dragons ensured their place as one of three other best-placed runners-up in the Pool stages.

Fijian flanker Akapusi Qera was the Gloucester hero with three tries before a penalty try clinched the all-important bonus point.

Gloucester were joined in the draw by Cardiff Blues, who secured a thumping 45-20 win over Harlequins, and the Scarlets, while Ulster and Sale missed out.

The Blues ran in six tries with Ben Blair claiming 20 points.

Gloucester now face an all-English clash with Wasps, while the Blues make the trip to Newcastle.