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Heineken CupThe European Cup draws towards the Final with two french giants battling against the cream of the Irish and English leagues in the semifinals.

Reigning European Cup champions, Toulon, are aiming for a fourth European final in five seasons.

And although they are on the opposite side of the semifinal draw from French compatriots Clermont, successes for both of these teams could see a repeat of last years Final.

Last year’s Final saw Toulon just pip Clermont by a solitary point.

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There have been six European Cup semifinals between English and French clubs since the tournament started in 1995 with the countries currently level at three wins apiece.

 

We take a look at the 2 Semi-final matches:

Saturday 26 April

Toulon vs Munster:

Stade Vélodrome – Kick-Off: 16:30 SA Time (16:30 French Time, 14:30 GMT, 15:30 BST)

Toulon, the reining champions take on Munster – who have tasted European Cup glory themselves twice – in the first semifinal match at the Stade Vélodrome.

The french side are so far unbeaten in the competition and received good news earlier in the week when star flyhalf Jonny Wilkinson, as well as South African-born hooker Craig Burden, were declared fit.

Toulon will be taking form as well as historical impotence into the clash, at the same stage last year the french side dispatched fellow semifinalists Saracens, which saw them march on to take the Cup.

Munster are not strangers to the business end of the European cup either, having played in 11 semifinals in their hostory – a record they took from Toulon.

In a knock-out game such as this it is very hard to call a out-and-out favorite, however Toulon coach Bernard Leporte believes his team’s home ground advantage will be the thing that edges it for them.

“The match is 51-49 percent in our favour, we have a slight advantage in that we are playing at home, at the Velodrome, even if one recalls that last year we went away to Saracens in the semi-finals and won,” Laporte said.

Munster’s Paul O’Connell realises the challenge that they are up against in facing the giants of French rugby, comparing them to the All Blacks.

The caliber of players on the Toulon side is something that could make Munster’s day very difficult.

They will have to get the better of the likes of Jonny Wilkinson, Matt Giteau, Bryan Habana, Drew Mitchell, Carl Hayman, Juan Smith and Juan Fernandez Lobbe if they are to keep their European dream alive.

“It’s kind of like the feeling you get the week before you play New Zealand,” O’Connell said.

“If you’re not [at your best], if guys aren’t prepared to go beyond where they’ve been all season, you know you could almost end up getting embarrassed.”

“Mentally they’re probably a team that will challenge you more than any other.”

“They can push you around the place with sheer power but they’ve incredible talent then, incredible steppers, incredible footballers and they’ve obviously got massive gas all over the pitch as well.”

“Not just in the backline but in the pack as well. You know you’re going to be challenged every single way possible.”

Teams:

Toulon: TBC

Munster: TBC

Referee: Wayne Barnes
Assistant Referees: JP Doyle, Luke Pearce
TMO: Graham Hughes

 

Saracens v Clermont:

Twickenham Stadium – Kick-off: 16:30 SA Time (15:40 BST, 14:30 GMT, 16:40 French Time)

Saracens have had a rough time of it at  Twickenham in the European Cup with English son, Jonny Wilkinson, the chief destroyer the last time Sarries looked to reach a Final.

Wilkinson’s semifinal record 24 points steered the big spending French side Toulon into the final for the first time with a 24-12 triumph last year.

Saracens have not had a good run against Clermont either, they have met on three previous occasions with the French team triumphing each time.

This is Clermont third successive European Cup semifinal. They lost their first to Leinster in 2012 before defeating Munster in Montpellier last season.

Clermont hooker, Benjamin Kayser, has admitted his team are still smarting after last years dramatic loss in the Final against Toulon.

He knows Saracens will be a tough challenge regardless of the previous results they have put over the English club.

“The worst thing for us to be thinking about going into the game is that we beat them 22-3 in 2012. That’s not going to happen again. They are a much better team now,” Kayser said.

“That game went unbelievably well for us. We didn’t expect to win like that. Saracens were a very dominant team at the time and we managed to do really well.

“The teams have evolved since then so there is really no point thinking about that game again. Nothing will be written before the final whistle.”

“We will have to be extremely clinical, extremely disciplined and have a fantastic defence. Saracens are a team that will have a right go at the opposition so we need to show a lot of composure in defence.”

“The influence of the Vunipola brothers is huge and Chris Ashton has joined the club, they’ve got a lot more of a threat in their ball-carrying.”

“They’re very, very clinical, very well organised and their strategy is well in place.”

“They’ve got threats everywhere, in the forwards and the backs, and they’re more of a complete side than they were two years ago.”

Teams:

Saracens: TBC

Clermont: TBC

Referee: Nigel Owens
Assistant Referees: Alain Rolland, Leighton Hodges
TMO: Gareth Simmonds

120 Responses to European Cup: Preview – Semi-finals

  • 101

    8 point

  • 102

    What’s the odds that Wilko will miss this?
    At 5 points my 6 point margin is good, at 8 not so much

  • 103

    like clockwork, toulon take a 24-16 lead

  • 104

    Nope, Wilko won’t miss those
    Game over, well done Touloun
    Not a bad match this

  • 105

    Toulon wants this Heinekin cup BAD

  • 106

    @ MacroBull:
    Maybe not completely unasailable

  • 107

    Wtf wayne barnes blow the end whistle

  • 108

    MacroBull wrote:

    Toulon wants this Heinekin cup BAD

    You think they can beat Saracens?

  • 109

    @ superBul:
    106
    i could still be won , a try under the post and a player diving on the player after the try, could lead to a 10 point swing. Wonder if it ever happened before.

    Will be like a no ball in cricket with 7 to win

  • 110

    @ nortierd:
    I honestly dont know enough about Saracens, but Clermont is amazing at home but different team away and they played in London, while 46-6 cant be ignored, Toulon really looked like they are not going to give anything away.

  • 111

    Toulon are too strong and the reigning champions win it 24-16. Munster brought fight to the game but just couldn’t hold back the red tide and Toulon will attempt to defend their crown against Saracens in the last ever Heineken Cup final

  • 112

    @ superBul:
    semantics

  • 113

    Damn, the final is on when I’m working the Inauguration.
    Will be working at the DIRCO offices, so will take my Walka with, but don’t think it will show the channel this game will be shown on.
    That’s a bummer

  • 114

    @ nortierd:
    24 May?

  • 115

    Take the day off :P

  • 116

    superBul wrote:

    @ superBul:
    106
    i could still be won , a try under the post and a player diving on the player after the try, could lead to a 10 point swing. Wonder if it ever happened before.
    Will be like a no ball in cricket with 7 to win

    I remember that happening in a Currie Cup match once.
    And the most memorable 7 run from a no ball I can recall was when Richard Snell bowled against Jonty Rhodes. What a finish that was

  • 117

    MacroBull wrote:

    @ nortierd:
    24 May?

    Yep, can’t take off unfortunately, busy helping with the planning, huge special event.
    But my “work” will be done long before that, by then all the visiting heads of state from the other countries will be in, so I will watch the SR.
    That is if the game at Loftus will still be played that day. Can’t say to much, but it’s a contentious issue that is being discussed very high up

  • 118

    @ nortierd:
    Good luck Nortie

  • 119

    @ nortierd:
    nortierd wrote:

    I’m working the Inauguration.

    Whats this?

  • 120

    superBul wrote:

    @ nortierd:
    nortierd wrote:
    I’m working the Inauguration.
    Whats this?

    The election is the 7th, the 24th is when the “new” president is inaugurated


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