Ollie Phillips: A Leicester Tigers European triumph would be incredible
If Leicester go on to win the Champions Cup this season I think it will be one of modern rugby’s greatest stories. From an extremely poor season just two years ago to the quarter-finals of Europe, while also heading up the Premiership table, is testament to Steve Borthwick and his ability to nurture a squad back to competitiveness.
To even reach the final, however, Tigers will need to get past the European powerhouses Leinster before facing either Munster or Toulouse in the semis.
It’s not going to be easy. Leinster are probably the best side in Europe at the moment and they have the depth to consistently field incredibly strong sides.
Stuart Lancaster is part of the coaching set up across the Irish Sea and it’s not beyond insanity to see this match as England’s former head coach against England’s next coach.
The duo are brilliant coaches in their own right and are showing how the club game resurrect and propel coaching careers in equal measure.
I am going to be bullish and back Leicester to win this one. The match is at home and the fans will crave a chance to be back at the top of the European ladder yet again.
There’s been so much emotion at the club recently surrounding Tom Youngs’ retirement. Combine that with the departures of Ellis Genge and George Ford, the fortress that is Welford Road will be looking to defend an onslaught from the men in blue.
Around the grounds
Elsewhere I have been really impressed with the passion Ronan O’Gara has shown as La Rochelle head coach, he’s been visibly emotional throughout the French league this year and that’s something the fans will eat up. His side are my pick to make the semis in their clash with Montpellier.
It must have been music to Toulouse’s ears when it was confirmed that Munster wouldn’t be able to host them at Thomond Park due to an Ed Sheeran concert. That ground is incredibly hostile and would have given them the edge but at the Aviva in Dublin it will be Toulouse who will back themselves. It’s their to lose.
In the final semi, I don’t see Sale firing a shot against Racing 92. The French outfit are the competition’s most prolific try-scorers this season and they’ll be looking to earn a spot in the semis.
If they are to progress to the last four, they’ll be in a similar situation to the one Munster find themselves in this weekend. Instead of Sheeran, though, it will be Elton John.
We’re all set as eight teams remain in the hunt for the biggest club trophy in the sport. We’re in for a corker.
Former England Sevens captain Ollie Phillips is the founder of Optimist Performance, experts in leadership development and behavioural change. Follow Ollie on Twitter and on LinkedIn.