Sunday's draw for the quarter-finals of the Heineken Cup was overshadowed for the French by a grievous blow to their Six Nations ambitions when Thierry Dusautoir, the national captain and one of the most formidable flankers in the sport, was ruled out of the forthcoming tournament after rupturing his biceps.
He sustained the injury while leading Toulouse to victory over Zebre in the final round of European pool games over the weekend and is news that will encourage Stuart Lancaster’s England as they prepare for their meeting with Les Blues in Paris on Saturday week.
In the Cup draw, Saracens, one of two English qualifiers for the quarter-finals in the first week of April, will play Ulster in Belfast with the incentive of having a home semi-final – or at least a tie at a major stadium in their own country – if they find a way through to the last four. If that is a tough ask, Leicester have it far worse. They must travel to Clermont Auvergne, who have not lost at home for more than 70 games.
Three more English teams – Northampton, Harlequins and Gloucester – did enough in their Heineken Cup pools to earn a drop-down place in the last eight of the second-tier Amlin Challenge Cup. Quins, who ended all Welsh interest in Europe by beating Scarlets in Llanelli yesterday, have an eye-catching tie against Stade Francais in Paris, while Gloucester, victors in Perpignan, will face Wasps at Adams Park.
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