Leinster, Toulouse face English duo in Champions Cup semifinals

rugby01 May 2024 20:37| © Reuters
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Andrew Porter (R) © Gallo Images

Irish side Leinster will aim to make it a hat-trick of European Champions Cup final appearances when they host English club Northampton Saints at a sold out Croke Park in Dublin on Saturday as they look to regain the title they last won in 2018.

Four-time winners Leinster narrowly lost to French outfit La Rochelle in the last two finals, but convincingly beat coach Ronan O’Gara’s side 40-13 in this year’s quarterfinals to underline their status as the team to beat in the competition.

The second semifinal on Sunday sees record five-time winners Toulouse host Harlequins, where they will be favourites to book a final place at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in London on May 25.

Leinster sent a weakened squad to South Africa for a pair of heavy United Rugby Championship defeats in the last two weeks so they will be fresh for the challenge of Premiership leaders Northampton.

"It seems like we’re kind of in a cycle of getting so close yet so far the last couple of years," prop Andrew Porter told reporters.

"We’re definitely using those experiences, those losses to add to our armoury. You have to leverage that hurt."

Fullback Jimmy O’Brien (neck) and centre Garry Ringrose (shoulder) are expected to be fit to return, but back Hugo Keenan (hip) is facing a late fitness test.

Northampton suffered a 41-32 Premiership loss to Harlequins on Saturday, but fullback George Furbank says attention has quickly turned to Dublin.

"Croke Park is going to be a hell of an atmosphere, probably one that even international boys haven’t experienced before, so we’re buzzing for that and are determined to get our game on the pitch against Leinster," he said.

The semifinal is a repeat of the 2010-11 decider that was won 33-22 by Leinster in Cardiff.


Toulouse are the most successful team in the competition’s history, and won the last of their five titles in 2020-21.

Coach Ugo Mola will have several players back from illness and rest, including flanker Jack Willis, lock Richie Arnold, centre Paul Costes and flanker Francois Cros.

Antoine Dupont and flyhalf Romain Ntamack are expected to start as the halfback pairing.

Toulouse have already beaten Harlequins this season, a thumping 47-19 victory at The Stoop in the pool stages in December.

Harlequins are seeking a first appearance in Europe’s elite club final and No 8 Alex Dombrandt says they are embracing the challenge in "the biggest week in the club’s history".

"I haven’t seen any fear this week," he said. "The belief is strong among the group. We have won in France a couple of times – we went to Racing and beat a very good team, and we beat a very good Bordeaux (in the quarterfinals).

"They (Toulouse) are a team of superstars across the board, and we know we are going to have to go there and score tries."