Sarries must prepare to take leaf out of Hill's book

European preview: Londoners can follow example of former flanker against stellar French opponents

Saracens v Clermont Auvergne

The last time Saracens played a Heineken Cup knockout tie in the tumbledown surroundings of Vicarage Road – against the Ospreys, the Welsh "galacticos", almost exactly four years ago – they cocked a snook at their long-odds status by progressing to the semi-finals. Tomorrow, they face another stellar team of all the talents in Clermont Auvergne. The differences? This time, they are anything but outsiders. And this time, they do not have a man by the name of Richard Hill in the back row of their pack.

Hill's brink-of-retirement performance against Ospreys was one of the wonders of the age, not least because he found himself playing with only one fully functioning knee against an opponent as good as the All Black flanker Marty Holah.

Saracens have worked hard to fill the gap left by the finest English loose forward of the post-war era and when they are at full strength, they come close to succeeding. But Kelly Brown, Jacques Burger and Andy Saull are all out injured and given the French club's riches in the back-row department, the Premiership champions will do well to compensate here.

If Clermont look powerful up front, they are positively scary outside the scrum. Sitiveni Sivivatu, Aurélien Rougerie, Wesley Fofana and Julien Malzieu... that is some three-quarter line. Saracens, who have the England centre Brad Barritt back in midfield, will need to be at their most resourceful.

Edinburgh v Toulouse

Clermont are one of two outstanding performers in this season's French Top 14 tournament. The others, as always, are Toulouse. On the face of it, an Edinburgh side in domestic freefall have next to no chance of prevailing today, even at an unusually well-populated Murrayfield, but the visitors have had the odd funny moment in Scotland down the years – they actually lost in the capital in 2003 – and will be just a little wary. Especially in the back-row department, where the home side's free-running international combination of Ross Rennie and David Denton could produce something out of the ordinary.

Leinster v Cardiff Blues

This afternoon's set-to in Dublin has a one-way look about it. Leinster, the reigning champions, have Brian O'Driscoll in their European mix for the first time this season: a significant factor, even when the opposition are feeling good about themselves. The Blues do not feel good, or anything approaching it. Sam Warburton and Jamie Roberts, two of their go-to men, have already gone, so to speak – as has Gavin Henson, sacked earlier this week for being rubbish in drink. Leigh Halfpenny, Alex Cuthbert, Casey Laulala, Lloyd Williams and Gethin Jenkins are top-notch talents, but you fear for them all the same.

Munster v Ulster

It should be some occasion down Limerick way tomorrow. The Munster of old would have been extremely confident of winning against the men from the north, but the Munster of today have a more fragile air about them. Ulster, bolstered by the presence of the outstanding Stephen Ferris at blindside flanker and armed with a trump card of the Springbok variety in the scrum-half Ruan Pienaar, have a distinctly lean and hungry look about them. The odds are just about with the home side, but the ambitious visitors will not die wondering.

Wasps v Biarritz

Biarritz had a horrible time of it in the Top 14 until Dimitri Yachvili, the best game-managing No 9 in world rugby, returned to the side after spells at the World Cup and on the treatment table. Since his reappearance, they have improved no end, both in domestic and European terms. Yachvili starts today's Amlin Challenge Cup quarter-final, as does the former England full-back Iain Balshaw and the unfeasibly rapid American wing Takudzwa Ngwenya. And what of Wasps? They will field a bunch of brave, utterly committed kids. As per usual.

Brive v Scarlets

Brive, a significant power in the early days of the Heineken Cup but now a mere shadow of the 1997 title-winning side, have the former red-rose midfielder Shane Geraghty at fly-half – pretty much the only recognisable figure from a British and Irish perspective. The Welsh region travel in full warpaint, however, with the eye-catching Six Nations backs George North and Jonathan Davies, not to mention the Lions hooker Matthew Rees and the molten-hot England No 8 Ben Morgan.

Voices
voicesGood for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, writes Grace Dent
Sport
The Pipes and Drums of The Scottish Regiments perform during the Opening Ceremony for the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games at Celtic Park on July 23, 2014 in Glasgow, Scotland.
Commonwealth GamesThe actor encouraged the one billion viewers of the event to donate to the children's charity
Sport
Karen Dunbar performs
Entertainers showcase local wit, talent and irrepressible spirit
Sport
Members of the Scotland deleagtion walk past during the opening ceremony of the 2014 Commonwealth Games at Celtic Park in Glasgow on July 23, 2014.
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
The Tour de France peloton rides over a bridge on the Grinton Moor, Yorkshire, earlier this month
film
Life and Style
fashion Designs are part of feminist art project by a British student
News
Very tasty: Vladimir Putin dining alone, perhaps sensibly
news
Life and Style
Listen here: Apple EarPods offer an alternative
techAre custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?
Arts and Entertainment
Top guns: Cole advised the makers of Second World War film Fury, starring Brad Pitt
filmLt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a uniform
News
The University of California study monitored the reaction of 36 dogs
sciencePets' range of emotions revealed
News
Snoop Dogg pictured at The Hollywood Reporter Nominees' Night in February, 2013
people... says Snoop Dogg
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from Shakespeare in Love at the Noel Coward Theatre
theatreReview: Shakespeare in Love has moments of sheer stage poetry mixed with effervescent fun
News
Joining forces: young British men feature in an Isis video in which they urge Islamists in the West to join them in Iraq and Syria
newsWill the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?
Arts and Entertainment
The nomination of 'The Wake' by Paul Kingsnorth has caused a stir
books
News
i100
Life and Style
food + drinkZebra meat is exotic and lean - but does it taste good?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

Screwing your way to the top?

Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
US Army's shooting star: Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform

Meet the US Army's shooting star

Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform
Climate change threatens to make the antarctic fur seal extinct

Take a good look while you can

How climate change could wipe out this seal
Should emergency hospital weddings be made easier for the terminally ill?

Farewell, my lovely

Should emergency hospital weddings be made easier?
Man Booker Prize 2014 longlist: Crowdfunded novel nominated for first time

Crowdfunded novel nominated for Booker Prize

Paul Kingsnorth's 'The Wake' is in contention for the prestigious award
Vladimir Putin employs a full-time food taster to ensure his meals aren't poisoned

Vladimir Putin employs a full-time food taster

John Walsh salutes those brave souls who have, throughout history, put their knives on the line
Tour de France effect brings Hollywood blockbusters to Yorkshire

Tour de France effect brings Hollywood blockbusters to Yorkshire

A $25m thriller starring Sam Worthington to be made in God's Own Country
Will The Minerva Project - the first 'elite' American university to be launched in a century - change the face of higher learning?

Will The Minerva Project change the face of higher learning?

The university has no lecture halls, no debating societies, no sports teams and no fraternities. Instead, the 33 students who have made the cut at Minerva, will travel the world and change the face of higher learning
The 10 best pedicure products

Feet treat: 10 best pedicure products

Bags packed and all prepped for holidays, but feet in a state? Get them flip-flop-ready with our pick of the items for a DIY treatment
Commonwealth Games 2014: Great Scots! Planes and pipers welcome in Glasgow's Games

Commonwealth Games 2014

Great Scots! Planes and pipers welcome in Glasgow's Games
Jack Pitt-Brooke: Manchester City and Patrick Vieira make the right stand on racism

Jack Pitt-Brooke

Manchester City and Patrick Vieira make the right stand on racism
How Terry Newton tragedy made iron men seek help to tackle their psychological demons

How Newton tragedy made iron men seek help to tackle their psychological demons

Over a hundred rugby league players have contacted clinic to deal with mental challenges of game