TOP BAR - Fixtures

Former Scotland skipper Andy Nicol looks ahead to exciting Champions Cup clashes

As an ex-Glasgow Warrior Andy Nicol is delighted to see the Scotstoun outfit side reach the quarter-finals of the Champions Cup, but the former Scotland skipper knows tests don’t come much harder than defending champions Saracens.

Sunday afternoon sees Glasgow travel to Allianz Park to take on a Saracens side who are looking to hold on to their European crown following last season’s 21-9 showpiece victory over Racing 92.

And Mark McCall’s men have been in imperious form in this season’s competition, winning five and drawing one of their six Pool 3 games to advance to the quarter-finals, not to mention heading into this weekend’s clash having beaten Bath Rugby 53-10 at home in Aviva Premiership Rugby on Sunday.

However, Gregor Townsend’s Glasgow Warriors have impressed too, most notably beating Leicester Tigers 42-13 and 43-0 in the Pool stages – the latter coming at Welford Road.

This is the first time Glasgow have reached this stage of the competition and former scrum-half Nicol – who spent two years at Bath before moving to Glasgow in 1999 – is champing at the bit for their historic clash with Saracens.

“I’m a former Glasgow player, as you mentioned, so personally I think it’s just great that Glasgow have got through to the knockout stages for the first time in their history,” said Nicol, now a presenter for BBC Sport.

“I never thought I’d ever see Leicester be beaten like that at home, so Glasgow will go down to Allianz Park full of confidence.

“A lot of their players appeared for Scotland in the Six Nations and doing pretty well at the moment, so they’ll come out feeling good there.

“They’re also playing on an artificial pitch at Allianz Park. They play on one at Scotstoun too, so they’re used to it. They want to play on it, they like playing on it, it gives a fast game. And when you’ve got players like Stuart Hogg, who’s on fire, and Tommy Seymour, Mark Bennett and Finn Russell, these guys are just desperate to have success with Glasgow.

“Saracens are an outstanding side. They’re the reigning English and European champions, so it doesn’t get much harder for Glasgow.

“There’s Owen Farrell, Mario Itoje, I could go on and on, Schalk Burger too. There are so many world-class players there that I just think that Gregor and the rest of the Glasgow boys will just relish that opportunity.”

But 24 hours before the action gets underway at Allianz Park, Wasps travel to the Aviva Stadium to take on Leinster in the first Champions Cup quarter-final.

Wasps beat Leinster 33-6 and 51-10 in their two pool encounters last season, and with the firepower at theAviva Premiership Rugby’s leaders disposal, Nicol believes we are in for an action-packed opener.

He added: “For me the tie that stands out is Leinster versus Wasps – what a set of attacking players that will be on show.

“If the weather’s good there at the Aviva that Saturday, it will be a fantastic game of rugby. You’ve got so much attacking talent on both sides.

“Wasps, my goodness! With Kurtley Beale, with Jimmy Gopperth, Christian Wade, with Willie le Roux having come in, and then obviously up front they’ve got James Haskell, they’ve got Thomas Young, who’s been on fire.

“It’s incredible the players that will be on show that day, and it’ll be close to international quality, intensity and passion.”

Tickets to the Aviva Premiership Rugby Final is on 27 May at Twickenham are now on sale. If you want to have an unforgettable day out at club rugby’s best Cup Final then click here for tickets.

For more details about Andy Nicol click here

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