The Heineken Champions Cup is back after just over two months as the Round of 16 throws up a series of mouth-watering encounters.

The tension has been building ever since the conclusion of the pool stage and EPCR’s elite competition now moves into the ever-thrilling knockout stage.

By the end of April, we will know which two teams will be going head-to-head in the final at Dublin’s Aviva Stadium on May 20.

One of Leicester Tigers and Edinburgh Rugby will be first to take a step towards the showpiece game as they clash in the Round of 16 opener at Mattioli Woods Welford Road at 20:00 (All UK & Irish time) on Friday night.

Fly-half Handré Pollard has hit form at Leicester following his move from Montpellier Hérault Rugby, but Edinburgh full-back Emiliano Boffelli has an equally reliable boot and is fit again after missing the last two rounds of the pool stage.

On Saturday, Heineken Champions Cup knockout stage rugby heads to South Africa for the first time as Cell C Sharks welcome Munster Rugby to Durban in a blockbuster encounter at 12:30.

The hosts’ EPCR Player of the Year-nominated flanker Siya Kolisi up against Munster counterpart Peter O’Mahony is poised to be an enthralling battle – they are just two of a plethora of South Africa and Ireland internationals set to grace Hollywoodbets Kings Park.

Another intriguing contest takes place in Cape Town at 15:00 as DHL Stormers entertain Harlequins at DHL Stadium, opposing fly-halves Manie Libbok and Marcus Smith are likely to be key to their respective sides’ quarter-final hopes.

The reigning champions Stade Rochelais host Gloucester Rugby at 17:30, a game that will see a monumental clash at in the back row as the visitors’ Lewis Ludlow is tasked with keeping EPCR Player of the Year nominee Grégory Alldritt quiet.

Also at 17:30, last season’s beaten finalists Leinster Rugby continue their bid for a fifth EPCR star as they play interprovincial rivals Ulster Rugby in Dublin.

Leinster boast four EPCR Player of the Year nominees, in back-row forward Caelan Doris, flanker Josh van der Flier, centre Garry Ringrose and utility back Jamie Osborne, but Ulster also have immense quality at their disposal with the likes of flanker Nick Timoney, No.8 Duane Vermeulen, wing Rob Baloucoune and full-back Mike Lowry.

The drama will continue on Sunday as 2020 champions Exeter Chiefs welcome Montpellier to Sandy Park at 12:30. Exeter will have their work cut out with Montpellier No.8 Zach Mercer, but his opposite number Sam Simmonds will be keen to impress against the club he is joining in the summer.

Stade Toulousain and Vodacom Bulls provide another gargantuan fixture at 15:00, with the South African debutants looking to bounce back from their Round 4 struggles in France.

Five-time champions Toulouse are led by EPCR Player of the Year nominee Julien Marchand, but Vodacom Bulls also have vast experience at hooker in Bismarck du Plessis.

Also at 15:00, Saracens and Ospreys face off at StoneX Stadium – a host of British & Irish Lions will be on show, with prop Mako Vunipola and lock Maro Itoje two giant figures in the Gallagher Premiership side’s pack, while back George North and EPCR Player of the Year nominee Justin Tipuric are a huge duo for the Welsh region.