Ulster: Dan McFarland’s side to face Euro kingpins Leinster in Aviva Stadium quarter-final showdown

Ulster's John Cooney celebrates at the final whistle
Ulster's John Cooney celebrates at the final whistle

Ulster’s reward for reaching the knockout stages in Europe for the first time in five seasons is an away date with champions Leinster.

The Irish Provincial derby will be held in the Aviva Stadium on a date to be confirmed over the weekend of March 30.

Leinster, who won both the European and PRO14 crowns last season, completed the final round of pool matches on Sunday with a convincing win against Wasps to secure top spot in Pool One.

Ulster confirmed their last eight spot with a rousing second half comeback at Welford Road when they came from 13-0 down to win 14-13 and go through as the best of the three runners-up across the five pools.

The Province’s met in the European Cup final in 2012 with Leinster winning 40-7.

And Ulster’s record against their provincial rivals in play-off/knockout games is poor and as rare as away wins in Dublin.

The options for Ulster in the knockout stages were always going to be tough with one of either Saracens, Racing 92 or Leinster.

A trip to Dublin will perhaps have been a perferred option than facing the prospect of going to Paris again and taking on Racing 92 who won 44-12 in the earlier pool four meeting against Ulster.

Ulster head coach Dan McFarland was not overly concerned who his side would meet in the last eight following the nervy win over Leicester.

“What really pleases me is we have qualified for the knockout stages on our own merits,” he said. “We were not waiting on other results. We defeated Racing last week and we came and defeated Leicester and won the right to be there.

“We’re in a quarter-final, any of those sides is going to be really tough. We’re going away from home, we’re going to play one of the four best sides in Europe as it stands at the moment.

“I think play-off football is where you want to be. If you want to put yourself into a position where you’re challenging for championships, then you’ve got to be playing play-off football and you’ve got to be doing it regularly.

“I looked at what people said, I don’t know if they described it as a group of death but they certainly described it as probably the hardest group and we’ve come out of it with five wins.

“In terms of what we’ve done this year, it is a credit to the players who have been out there and the other coaches that we’re in the position we are.”