Saracens and Toulon will both have uncharted territory in their sights when they clash in today’s semi-final showdown at Twickenham Stadium – a debut place in a prestigious Heineken Cup final.
Saracens are in their second semi-final, losing 18-16 to Munster at the Ricoh Arena five years ago, while Toulon are in the last four in only their second season in the top flight of European club rugby.
It will be the first time the clubs – who each lead their respective domestic tournaments – have met in the blue riband tournament although the clubs have played each other in the Amlin Challenge Cup.
They met twice in the 2009 /10 Pool stage winning one apiece while captain and international lock Steve Borthwick, who will be playing his 50th tournament match, along with several of his team-mates are no strangers to playing at the home of English rugby.
And they will also be boosted by the fact that five of the last six semi-finals have been won by the side with ‘home country’ advantage on the day.
Saracens suffered one group stage defeat on their way to qualifying for the knock-out stages, a 15-9 reverse against Munster at Thomond Park, while doing the double over both Edinburgh Rugby and Racing Metro 92.
They booked their place in the last four with a 27-16 victory over 2012 finalists Ulster Rugby while Toulon suffered their only group stage blip in Round 6 when they were stunned 23-3 at Montpellier.
They also did the double – in their case over Cardiff Blues and Sales Sharks – before ending former double winners Leicester Tigers’ hopes with a thrilling 21-15 quarter-final win.
However, both teams have masters of the goal kicking art, Owen Farell for Saracens and Jonny Wilkinson for Toulon, who could each hold the balance in a tight affair.
Farrell is in second spot in this season’s leading points scorer with 92 with Wilkinson on 73 while wing Chris Ashton has crossed for four tries to Toulon’s leading try scorer Delon Armitage on three.
- Toulon have won all five of their clashes with English opponents in this tournament.
- Steve Borthwick has won more line-outs (42, including three steals) than any other player in this season’s tournament.
- Steffon Armitage and Jonny Wilkinson have both weighed in with four try assists this season, only Morgan Parra (5) has more.
- Saracens’ Kelly Brown made eight more tackles (21) than any other player in the quarter-finals.
Semifinal teams and kick-off times. Sunday 28 April.
Saracens v Toulon
(Twickenham, London – Kick-off: 15:00 BST, 16:00 South African time)
Saracens: 15 Alex Goode, 14 Chris Ashton, 13 Joel Tomkins, 12 Brad Barritt, 11 David Strettle, 10 Owen Farrell, 9 Richard Wigglesworth, 8 Ernst Joubert, 7 Kelly Brown, 6 Jackson Wray, 5 Alistair Hargreaves, 4 Steve Borthwick (Captain), 3 Matt Stevens, 2 Schalk Brits, 1 Mako Vunipola.
Replacements: 16 John Smit, 17 Rhys Gill, 18 Carlos Nieto, 19 Mouritz Botha, 20 George Kruis, 21 Neil de Kock, 22 Charlie Hodgson, 23 Chris Wyles.
Toulon: 15 Delon Armitage, 14 Rudi Wulf, 13 Mathieu Bastareaud, 12 Matt Giteau, 11 Alexis Palisson, 10 Jonny Wilkinson (Captain), 9 Sébastien Tillous-Borde, 8 Chris Masoe, 7 Juan Fernandez Lobbe, 6 Danie Rossouw, 5 Nick Kennedy, 4 Bakkies Botha, 3 Carl Hayman, 2 Sebastien Bruno, 1 Andrew Sheridan.
Replacements: 16 Jean-Charles Orioli, 17 Gethin Jenkins, 18 Davit Kubriashvili, 19 Joe van Niekerk, 20 Steffon Armitage, 21 Maxime Mermoz, 22 Frederic Michalak, 23 Jocelino Suta.
Referee: Alain Rolland (Ireland)
Assistant referees: Peter Fitzgibbon (Ireland), Andrew McMenemy (Scotland)
TMO: Marshall Kilgore (Ireland)