Leinster v Toulouse
Two of the best sides in world rugby collide in the Irish capital as Antione Dupont and his star-studded Toulouse team take on Leinster. Last year, the semi-final between these two sides ended 40–17 to the French side, but a much closer contest is expected.
Jonny Sexton is out for the season, yet Ross Byrne has been sensational in his absence, although he will have to do without the imperious Robbie Henshaw outside of him in the centre. Garry Ringrose instead partners Charlie Ngatai, with James Lowe also out of their backline and instead replaced by Jordan Lamour.
Toulouse coach Ugo Mola has deliberately rested players just for this game, with Cyril Baille, Julien Marchand, Thibaud Flament, Francois Cros, Dupont, Romain Ntamack and Thomas Ramos all absolutely vital for both club and country. The scrum-half captains Les Rouge et Noir and will hope his chaotic, off-the-cuff style of attacking rugby can disrupt the Leinster machine.
Toulouse may be the most successful side in the competition, but there are few better in Europe than Leinster right now, with a strong contingent of Ireland internationals littered throughout the side. Caelan Doris starting at blindside offers so much and his partnership with possible World Player of the Year Josh van de Flier could be crucial at the breakdown.
There are exciting match-ups all over the pitch: Dupont vs Jamison Gibson-Park, Hugo Keenan vs Thomas Ramos, James Ryan vs Emmanuel Meafou. However, Leinster are one of the most perfectly orchestrated machines in world sport at this moment in time, tearing through teams for fun. If Toulouse cannot get front foot ball through their power game and earn serious respect, a repeat of last season’s semi-final victory could be on the cards for the Irish outfit.
Leinster v Toulouse, Aviva Stadium in Dublin, 29 April kick-off, 3pm GMT.
Leinster v Toulouse Teams
La Rochelle v Exeter Chiefs
Reigning champions La Rochelle welcome 2020 winners Exeter to the west coast of France on Sunday afternoon after an emphatic victory against Saracens in the quarter-finals.
Exeter’s place in the final four has belied their current Premiership standings and overall form, but with players like Dave Ewers, Jack Nowell, Luke Cowan-Dickie, Sam Simmonds and Harry Williams all leaving in the summer, this represents the last time they could ever play together in a European game.
They were tactically brilliant against the South African Stormers in the quarter finals, and will be buoyed by the returning trio of Scott Sio, Jacques Vermulen and Jonny Gray - all missed the Premiership victory against Bristol Bears last time out.
Nowell is free to skipper the side after escaping suspension for his Tweets after the loss to Leicester, instead receiving a £10,000 fine. However, the Englishman (who will actually join La Rochelle) will need to be on his best to stop the rampaging French side, epitomised by the indomitable Will Skelton charging from deep.
The pack is where the French outfit will look to win the game, with their genuinely massive scrum epitomised by the likes of Skelton and Lavani Botia - who had the game of his life in the win against Saracens. While Exeter’s pack will need to strong and try to win the game up front, the likes of Nowell and Henry Slade will need all their nous and creativity to spring a shock.
La Rochelle v Exeter, Nouveau Stade de Bordeaux, 30 April, kick-off 3pm GMT.
La Rochelle v Exeter Teams
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