The Challenge Cup semi-final round will kick off at Welford Road on Friday when Leicester host the northern Irish outfit of Ulster.
The encounter will mark the first time these two sides face off in the Challenge Cup, though they have met 10 times before in the Champions Cup, with Ulster bagging 7 wins and Leicester 3.
Although slightly off the pace in the Premiership, Leicester have enjoyed great form in the Challenge Cup, having won all six of their home games with an average winning points margin of 24.
Ulster have appeared in European semi-finals on two occasions (1998-99 & 2011-12), emerging victorious in both. The took the title in 1998-99 but lost out to their countrymen, Leinster, in the latter competition.
Leicester will be looking to break into their first final since 2008-09 when they lost out to Leinster.
The success of the Leicester scrum this season deserves special mention; the Tigers pack boast an impressive record of 36/36 scrums – far and away the best of all the teams in the competition. In addition to this, they have also made the most tackles in the competition so far with a total of 573. In terms of points scored, they also find themselves at the very top – 154.
While their stats paint an impressive picture, Leicester will need to be on top of their game to beat an Ulster outfit which has gifted fans with some superb displays this season and, so close to the final, their determination will be at a significant high.
Leicester’s last hurdle en route to the semis was in the form of Newcastle Falcons, whom the former brushed aside fairly easily at Welford Road:
Ulster had to deal with a fiery Northampton Saints outfit who pushed their Irish counterparts close – jogging off at half-time ahead on the scoreboard. Ulster were forced to roll up their sleeves and dig deep in the second stanza, which they did, ultimately securing victory.
In terms of players to look out for, Leicester Tigers’ barnstorming number 8 Jasper Wiese – who has recently burst onto the Springbok radar – has beaten the most defenders (18) and racked up the second-highest number of carries (36) in the competition.
Leicester’s dynamic winger, Kini Murimurivalu, ranks joint second for metres gained (214) in the Challenge Cup this season, his average gain per carry (10.7m) is the best of any of the 38 players to make 20+ carries.
In the Ulster line-up, the duo of Robert Baloucoune and Jacob Stockdale have been in fine attacking form and are second (with 6) and third (with 5) respectively in the ‘clean breaks’ stat, while John Cooney has has been doing magnificent work from the scrumhalf berth.