With coveted places in the last eight, as well as qualification for the knockout stages of the Amlin Challenge Cup and valuable ERC ranking points up for grabs, the tension is set to rise and rise for the contenders following the announcement today (Wednesday, 19 December 2012) of the dates, venues and kick-off times for the Round 5 and 6 fixtures.
One of the highlights of Round 5 is undoubtedly the clash at the top of Pool 1 between Racing Metro 92 and Saracens at Stade de la Beaujoire in Nantes on Saturday, 12 January 2013. The 38,285-capacity stadium will become the 102nd venue to stage Heineken Cup action as Racing look to avenge their 30-13 defeat by the English club in Round 2.
The unbeaten trio of ASM Clermont Auvergne, Harlequins and Toulon will be attempting to continue their winning ways with home matches, also on the Saturday, against Exeter Chiefs, Connacht Rugby and Cardiff Blues and respectively.
Ospreys, who put themselves right back in the hunt for qualification from Pool 2 with a first-ever tournament victory over four-time champions, Toulouse, last weekend, renew acquaintances with Leicester Tigers at the Liberty Stadium on Sunday, 13 January 2013. Ospreys pushed Tigers hard at Welford Road in Round 2 before running out of steam in the final quarter and will be confident of reversing the result this time.
With each pool’s matches kicking off at the same time, Round 6 will have coaches, supporters and media alike reaching for their calculators, and with mouthwatering confrontations between the likes of Biarritz Olympique and Harlequins, Castres Olympique and Ulster Rugby, and Montpellier and Toulon on offer, the pool stages will reach a crescendo on Sunday, 20 January 2013 with the hugely-anticipated return matches between Munster and Racing at Thomond Park in Pool 1, and Leicester and Toulouse at Welford Road in Pool 5.
The Round 5 matches will get underway on Friday, 11 January 2013 with the meetings of Pool 4 front-runners, Ulster Rugby, and Glasgow Warriors at Ravenhill, Northampton Saints and Castres Olympique at Franklin’s Gardens, while Salford City Stadium will host the Pool 6 Sale Sharks-Montpellier tie.