Saracens were spurred on by the prospect of "another week together" after holding off a fightback from Leinster to reach the European Champions Cup semi-finals.

The star-studded squad Sarries have assembled will be hit by departures at the end of the campaign after they were administratively relegated from the Premiership for salary cap breaches.

However, the holders appear determined to go out on a high in European competition and a dominant first half was enough for them to defeat the Pro14 champions 25-17.

They led 22-3 at half-time, Alex Goode kicking three penalties and converting his own try while Elliot Daly added another pair of three-pointers.

Andrew Porter and Jordan Larmour crossed for Leinster in the second half to narrow the gap to five points, but Saracens held on and Goode's late penalty clinched victory.

Captain Brad Barritt - who will leave the club at the end of the season - said: "It was the prospect of having another week together.

"We know after this season there will be a slightly different-looking squad and we owed it to ourselves to have a big game. We showed a huge amount of character playing in games that don't mean anything.

"Today was about fighting for something tangible. We owed it to ourselves to represent the Saracens badge and I couldn't be more proud of my team."

Saturday's other quarter-final saw Racing 92 claim victory over Top 14 rivals Clermont Auvergne.

Racing led 24-8 at half-time, with six penalties from Teddy Iribaren and tries from Louis Dupichot and Francois Trinh-Duc key to the 36-27 success they claimed despite a spirited second-half showing from Clermont.

Former Scotland captain Greig Laidlaw has signed for Japanese Top League side Shining Arcs.

Laidlaw, 34, retired from international duty after the 2019 Rugby World Cup and has ended his three-year association with Clermont Auvergne for a move to Japan.

The experienced scrum-half will team up with Australia flanker Liam Gill and Rebels hooker Anaru Rangi ahead of the 2021 season.

"At the Scotland Tests in Japan in 2016 and at the World Cup last year, I was able to experience the wonderful culture of Japan and meet wonderful fans," Laidlaw said in a Shining Arcs statement.

"Every time I have visited Japan, I was welcomed with a wonderful hospitality and I look forward to living in this country and becoming a member of Shining Arcs."

This year's Top League season was cancelled due to coronavirus and the 2021 campaign is not scheduled to begin until January.

The Premiership has been suspended for five weeks and the quarter-finals of the European Champions Cup and Challenge Cup have been postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Premiership Rugby's decision followed new guidance from the United Kingdom government on Monday.

British prime minister Boris Johnson encouraged people to avoid mass gatherings and all "non-essential" travel and contact with others.

"The safety of our fans, players and staff is our first priority, and we would like to wish all of those who are affected our heartfelt best wishes and a very speedy recovery," a Premiership Rugby statement read.

"We'll continue to work closely with DCMS [the Departure for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport] and Public Health England, and to follow the advice of medical experts, and work with our clubs to help them to support their own wider communities at this time."

The decision to call off the European rugby season was taken during a conference call on Monday.

It means the matches in the Champions Cup and Challenge Cup scheduled for April 3, 4 and 5 will not now go ahead as planned, although organisers hope to rearrange the fixtures for later dates.

In a statement, the board of European Professional Club Rugby (EPCR) said: "While respecting all further directives by governments and local authorities, EPCR, in conjunction with the relevant leagues and unions, remains committed to trying to find a solution which will enable it to complete the 2019-20 Champions Cup and Challenge Cup tournaments at such a time as that aligns with preventative measures undertaken by an overwhelming majority of sport's governing bodies and tournament organisers in Europe.  

"EPCR's priority is the health and welfare of players and club staff, and an update regarding the knockout stages of the tournaments will be communicated to all stakeholders as soon as practicable."

Geoffrey Cros grabbed a double as Top 14 leaders Bordeaux Begles beat Clermont Auvergne 31-22 to go eight points clear after Toulon were beaten at La Rochelle on Saturday.

Versatile back Cros scored a try in each half at Stade Marcel-Michelin, where Remi Lamerat also crossed in the first half and Jules Gimbert touched down to give Bordeaux breathing space late on.

Seta Tamanivalu's yellow card, which resulted in Morgan Parra slotting over a fifth penalty, set up a tense final but Gimbert's score ensured Bordeaux took maximum points.

Clermont led 19-14 at half-time courtesy of 14 points from the boot of Parra and a Paul Jedrasiak try, yet they were unable to finish off the job and sit in sixth place.

La Rochelle leapfrogged Toulon to go third with a 17-12 victory at Stade Marcel Deflandre.

Struggling Stade Francais had claimed a surprise win over La Rochelle last weekend, but Arthur Retiere scored the only try of the game in the second half and Jules Plisson landed four first-half penalties to get them back on track.

Pau dropped to the foot of the table after slumping to a 26-16 loss at Castres despite Mathieu Babillot's red card, while Loris Tolot claimed a brace of tries as Agen moved off the bottom with a 30-16 win at Brive.

Stade were brought back down to earth after their victory at La Rochelle, going down to a 28-17 defeat at Bayonne to sit second-bottom, with Agen rising two places.

Lyon quickly put their European Champions Cup disappointment behind them to return to the Top 14 summit with a comfortable home victory over Toulon on Saturday.

The domestic league leaders failed to advance through their European pool after losing to Leinster and Northampton Saints across the previous two weekends.

But a Top 14 title charge is very much on thanks to their 11th win of the campaign, a 27-12 success as Toulon were held try-less.

Xavier Mignot crossed for Lyon's opener after eight minutes, but Anthony Belleau kicked four first-half penalties to keep Toulon in the match with a narrow half-time lead.

But after Rudi Wulf and then Toby Arnold added further Lyon tries, victory never looked in serious doubt.

Meanwhile, La Rochelle defeated Montpellier 35-30 thanks to a hat-trick from Arthur Retiere in a 15-minute spell either side of half-time.

Retiere crossed in the 32nd, 36th and 46th minutes to put La Rochelle in complete control, their lead 32-11 inside the final half-hour.

But they had to withstand a tense finish after Johan Goosen, Nicolaas Janse van Rensburg and Nemani Nadolo all crossed while Geoffrey Doumayrou was sent off.

Racing 92 had no difficulties as they crushed Castres on the road, Marc-Antoine Rallier's 48th-minute dismissal ending all hopes of a home fightback in a 27-0 reverse.

Brive defeated Pau 33-26 in far more dramatic circumstances, though, as Thomas Laranjeira produced a stunning match-winning turn.

The full-back scored 28 of his side's 33 points, including two tries in the closing stages to down shell-shocked Pau, who had led from the 26th minute until the 77th.

In Saturday's late game, Stade Francais made a strong start but succumbed to a 29-19 loss at Clermont Auvergne.

Bordeaux-Begles have the chance to move back above Lyon and return to the top of the standings when they play away to holders Toulouse on Sunday.

Ulster secured a European Champions Cup quarter-final spot with a 22-15 defeat of Bath, while Northampton Saints and Glasgow Warriors stayed in the hunt for qualification on Saturday.

Clermont Auvergne sealed top spot in Pool 3 with a 26-19 victory at Harlequins, but Ulster knew a defeat of Bath would see them through as one of three best-placed runners-up.

The Pro14 side got the job done in the second half after the two sides were level at 7-7 at the break, Robert Baloucoune and Will Addison going over to add to a first-half try from Marcell Coetzee before Billy Burns was on target with a penalty.

Tries from Ruaridh McConnochie and Ross Batty, who was later red-carded for a no-arms tackle on John Cooney, were not enough for Bath to end the competition on a high note.

Northampton did all they could to advance as runners-up with a 36-24 victory at Top 14 high-flyers Lyon in Pool 1.

The Saints will go progress if either Saracens or Gloucester fail to pick up maximum points wins on Sunday after Mike Haywood, Teimana Harrison, Cobus Reinach, George Furbank and James Fish touched down in a bonus-point triumph at Matmut Stade de Gerland.

Glasgow must hope defending champions Sarries, whose relegation from the Premiership at the of the season for persistent salary-cap breaches was announced on Saturday, and Gloucester slip up after demolishing Sale Sharks 45-7 in Pool 2.

Leone Nakarawa set the tone early on with one of six Glasgow tries at the AJ Bell Stadium, where Adam Hastings scored 15 points from the tee.

Leinster made it six victories out of six in Pool 1 with an 18-0 defeat of Benetton Treviso, while Sam Simmonds grabbed a double as Pool 2 winners Exeter Chiefs saw off La Rochelle 33-14 at Sandy Park.

Beleaguered Sarries host Racing 92 on the final day of pool matches reeling from the announcement that they will drop of out of the Premiership, while Gloucester travel to Toulouse.

Saracens kept their European Champions Cup defence alive despite Rhys Carre's early red card at Ospreys, while Clermont Auvergne, Toulouse and Exeter Chiefs booked quarter-final spots.

Prop Carre was shown a straight red card for a shoulder-led tackle on Dan Evans just four minutes in, but the reigning champions went on to claim a crucial 22-15 triumph at the Liberty Stadium on Saturday.

Fly-half Manu Vunipola was successful with his six efforts from the tee, which consisted of five penalties and the conversion of Alex Lewington's try off Richard Wigglesworth's box kick.

Sarries consequently moved up to second in Pool 4 and three points behind Racing 92, who face Munster on Sunday.

A battling 31-31 draw with Glasgow Warriors was sufficient for Exeter to reach the last eight for just the second time in their history, with only the crossbar denying them the win via a 60-yard Stuart Hogg penalty beyond the 80th minute against his former club.

Tommy Seymour touched down in the opening minute as the Warriors surged into an early 14-3 lead, but Matt Kvesic's double helped ensure the Chiefs got a bonus point and progressed as Pool 2 winners.

Second-half tries from Alivereti Raka and George Moala led Clermont from behind to a 29-13 win at home to Ulster, the Top 14 side taking control of Pool 3.

Toulouse guaranteed a last-eight berth by winning 21-7 at Connacht. Jerome Kaino, Julien Marchand and Pita Ahki cross for the visitors, who were reduced to 13 men in the closing stages when Zack Holmes saw red for a dangerous tackle after Yoann Huget was sent to the sin bin.

Gloucester lost Danny Cipriani to injury after 12 minutes but remained in contention to advance as one of the three best runners-up with a 29-6 bonus-point win against Montpellier.

Ben Morgan, Louis Rees-Zammit and Todd Gleave marked their returns to the starting line-up with tries, the latter coming after Paul Willemse was shown a yellow card for collapsing the maul.

Lyon were grateful to Xavier Chiocci for a late try as they scraped past Agen, avoiding an upset in Top 14 action on Saturday.

Visitors Lyon are second in the table, with Agen second from bottom, but failed to score in the first half, trailing 12-0 at the break.

Jonathan Pelissie was sent to the sin bin as he conceded an early penalty try, before Andres Zafra Tarazona crossed, and Lyon ended the half with Liam Gill having also seen yellow.

The high-flying away team were still behind heading into the closing stages, despite a pair of Jonathan Wisniewski penalties.

But Chiocci went over in the 75th minute, and Wisniewski kept his nerve with the conversion to seal a tense 13-12 victory.

Lyon still trail Bordeaux Begles, though, after the Top 14 leaders brushed aside Bayonne 22-3.

Bordeaux were in control from the first minute when Jean-Baptiste Dubie scored, and tries followed from Kane Douglas and Remi Lamerat before a scoreless second half.

Jules Plisson had a try, four conversions and three penalties for third-placed La Rochelle in a 44-13 success at Pau.

Racing 92 are back in fourth and beat Clermont Auvergne 27-19, as Teddy Iribaren similarly starred with a try, three conversions and a pair of penalties.

Elsewhere, Thomas Darmon's 75th-minute try meant a late Brive response mattered little, Montpellier winning 29-26.

Toulouse and Toulon lost ground on the leading two as Bordeaux-Begles returned to the Top 14 summit at the expense of Lyon on Sunday.

Reigning champions Toulouse surrendered a comfortable lead to draw 13-13 at home to Toulon, while Bordeaux emerged 27-23 victors at Pau despite a late scare.

A Thomas Ramos penalty got Toulouse off the mark and the full-back converted Sebastien Bezy's 14th-minute try to send them into half-time in control.

Another three points from the tee courtesy of Ramos put the hosts 13 ahead, but Louis Carbonel reduced the arrears when he crossed in the 52nd minute.

France scrum-half Antoine Dupont made his return from a back injury sustained at the Rugby World Cup and helped Toulon salvage a draw, with a pair of Anthony Belleau penalties ensuring the spoils were shared.

The result was a boost for Bordeaux, who scored the first try of their game against Pau despite being down to 14 men after Remi Lamerat was shown a yellow card.

Scott Higginbotham was the man who crossed, before Santiago Cordero touched down twice – the second while Dominiko Waqaniburotu was in the sin bin.

Bordeaux took a 14-point lead when Tom Taylor was shown a yellow card and conceded a penalty try in the 60th minute, with Antoine Hastoy converting a Daniel Ramsey try and adding a three-pointer from the tee at the death to ensure Pau left with a losing bonus point.

Clermont Auvergne were temporarily reduced to 13 men in the second half of their 39-22 triumph over Castres.

Sebastien Vahaamahina was shown a yellow card for repeated infringements and Anthony Jelonch darted over after Rory Kockott took the penalty quickly.

Sitaleki Timani responded to Kockott touching his head as he went to celebrate with his team-mates by striking the Castres scrum-half in the face. After the ensuing melee, Kockott was sent to the sin bin and Timani was shown a red card.

Castres used their numerical advantage to run in another two tries, but Morgan Parra and Greig Laidlaw kept them at bay from the tee.

La Rochelle lost to Bordeaux last weekend but returned to winning ways at home to struggling Agen, running in six tries in a 40-8 triumph.

Record-breaking former Scotland captain Greig Laidlaw has ended his international career at the age of 34.

Laidlaw has skippered Scotland more times than any other player, leading his country out in 39 of his 76 appearances.

The Clermont Auvergne fly-half is also the second-highest all-time points scorer for Scotland with a tally of 714.

Laidlaw on Thursday announced that a defeat to hosts Japan in the Rugby World Cup in October will be his last Test.

"Emotionally, this decision was incredibly tough. However, when I reflected on what I have learned from playing Test-level rugby and where Scotland is as a national team, it makes sense," Laidlaw.

"Captaining your country to victory is the stuff of childhood dreams. To say I will never again stand in the tunnel, filled with nerves, alongside my rugby family and lead my team-mates out on to the pitch at Murrayfield, is incredibly hard.

"While my body and heart could continue playing, my head tells me that it's time to let the team rebuild. In terms of where Scotland is now, they are in a position to spring forward and I cannot wait to give them my full support from the stands.

"To the Scotland coaches and backroom staff over the years who dedicate hours behind the scenes to prepare the team collectively and as individuals, I thank you.

"To the people who have helped me achieve my dreams: my team-mates, my parents, sister, family, close friends and my incredible wife, Rachel, and our sons, I will be forever thankful for all the support you have shown me over the years; you have stuck by me through thick and thin.

"I'd also like to thank Scottish Rugby and the staff behind the scenes who have both supported me as captain and a player and enabled the team to perform in front of capacity crowds.

"And finally, a massive thanks to the Scotland supporters both in Scotland and abroad for sharing the rollercoaster ride of international rugby with me.

"Your support was always appreciated, from messages on social media to being at the stadium, or just stopping to chat on the street. I look forward to supporting the team alongside you all at Murrayfield soon."

Exeter Chiefs overpowered domestic rivals Sale Sharks while Clermont Auvergne crushed Bath in Sunday's European Champions Cup action.

The all-Premiership clash at Sandy Park saw Exeter lead just 7-3 at the break, but the Sharks were eventually thumped 35-10 after capsizing in a hailstorm-interrupted second half.

Sam Simmonds crossed in each half while brother Joe also grabbed a try for the Chiefs, who sit top of Pool 2 after a fourth successive win in this season's competition.

They appear certainties to seal a place in the last eight for just the second time in their history, as they have a firm grip on a pool that also includes Glasgow Warriors and La Rochelle.

Sam James scored the only try of the contest for Sale but the heavy loss on their travels leaves the struggling Sharks with just six points to their name.

Clermont, meanwhile, moved to within a point of Pool 3 leaders Ulster thanks to a 52-26 thrashing of Bath at Stade Marcel-Michelin.

Alivereti Raka and George Moala both touched down twice for the Top 14 side, who had the bonus point wrapped up by half-time as they scored eight tries in the rout.

Bath went over four times themselves to collect a losing bonus, though they remain rooted to the bottom of the table as their wait for a European victory this season goes on.

Samu Ezeala scored twice and set up another as Clermont Auvergne outclassed Bath 34-17 in the European Rugby Champions Cup at the Rec.

The Pool 3 clash was nicely poised at the break with Rhys Priestland's converted score for Bath answered by George Moala, who squirmed his way over from close range.

Clermont stole ahead as a couple of Greig Laidlaw penalties sandwiched Priestland's three pointer and were in command when Moala's clever pick-and-go preceded a fine offload for Ezeala to touch down.

Ezeala turned provider for Alexandre Lapandry to further stretch the lead before scoring his second of the night after excellent work from Isaia Toeava.

Jonathan Joseph managed a late consolation for Bath, who with two points to their name from three games have no realistic chance of progressing from the pool stages.

Clermont, conversely, are top of the pool, although Ulster can go back to the summit by beating Harlequins. 

Montpellier ran in five tries in a 33-8 rout of Top 14 leaders Lyon as Bordeaux-Begles closed the gap at the summit by edging past Racing 92. 

Lyon - beaten in the semi-finals last season - had won eight of their first nine games in this campaign but they were blown away by Montpellier, who were 21-0 up at half-time thanks to tries from Nemani Nadolo, Bismarck Du Plessis and Louis Picamoles.

The visitors finally got on the board with a Jonathan Wisniewski penalty in the 51st minute but further scores from Nico Janse van Rensburg and Youri Delhommel increased Montpellier's lead before Xavier Mignot crossed for a consolation late on.

Bordeaux took advantage of Lyon's slip up with a 34-30 victory over Racing as Matthieu Jalibert provided 14 points from the boot.

It was announced this week that Semi Radradra will join Premiership side Bristol Bears for next season but the Fiji international showed he was not distracted by his upcoming move with two of Bordeaux's four tries.

Sergio Parisse scored Toulon's try in a 19-9 success over Pau, while Brock James and Jules Plisson kicked five penalties between them as La Rochelle defeated Castres 22-13.

Clermont Auvergne were also victorious, a strong second-half display helping them to a 30-13 triumph over Agen.

John Cooney scored 13 points, including a superb second-half try, to help Ulster record a hard-fought 18-13 European Champions Cup win over Clermont Auvergne on Friday.

The Pro14 side went ahead inside the opening minute with a penalty, setting the tone for an impressive first-half performance that saw Jordi Murphy cross following a rolling maul at a line-out.

Cooney added the conversion as well as a further penalty before the break, with the only response from Clermont coming from the boot of Greig Laidlaw, making it 13-3 at the midway stage of the contest.

Scotland international Laidlaw landed a second penalty to cut the gap only for Ulster to reply with a try from Cooney that saw the scrum-half hack on his own kick over the top before diving on the loose ball.

Clermont made it a nervy finish by forcing a penalty try with nine minutes remaining, though they were forced to settle for a losing bonus point. Ulster, meanwhile, top Pool 3 after recording back-to-back triumphs in Europe.

Garry Ringrose scored a hat-trick as last season's runners-up Leinster beat Benetton 33-19 and Clermont Auvergne thrashed Harlequins in the European Champions Cup on Saturday.

Leinster were beaten by Saracens in the final in May, but the 2018 Champions Cup holders started their quest to regain the trophy with a bonus-point Pool 1 win at the RDS Arena.

Ringrose was the star of the show, the Ireland centre crossing twice inside the first 14 minutes and completing his treble after the break.

Ronan Kelleher also touched down on his European debut before Johnny Sexton rounded off a slick move early in the second half, the Ireland fly-half also adding six points with the boot.

Tries from Dean Budd, Epalahame Faiva and Luca Sperandio were in vain as Benetton were second best in the all-Pro 14 encounter.

Challenge Cup holders Clermont hammered Quins 53-21 in the Pool 2 clash at Stade Marcel Michelin.

Alivereti Raka and Peceli Yato grabbed doubles as the Top 14 side scored seven tries, blowing Paul Gustard's side away.

John Cooney made amends for an incredible missed penalty by slotting over the winning points from the tee to give Ulster a 17-16 success in the other Pool 2 match at Bath.

Exeter Chiefs are the early Pool 2 leaders following a 31-12 bonus-point win at La Rochelle, while DTH Van Der Merwe scored Glasgow Warriors' only try in a 13-7 home triumph over Sale Sharks.

Munster opened their European campaign with a 32-13 Pool 4 defeat of the Ospreys on their travels, Keith Earls and Andrew Conway among their four try-scorers.

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