And then there were four! Shaun Goosen previews the semi-finals of the 21/22 Champions Cup Campaign with Leinster hosting Toulouse on Saturday and La Rochelle making the trip to Racing on Sunday.
Saturday 14 May
Leinster 2/9 | Draw 24/1 | Toulouse 36/10 (16:00)
The two most successful teams in Champions Cup history clash at the Aviva Stadium on Saturday as Leinster host defending champions Toulouse in the first of this weekend’s semi-finals.
Leo Cullen’s side, the nearly men of so many recent European campaigns, haven’t tasted victory in the competition since their fourth title win in 2018. Since then, they’ve had one runner-up finish (2019), as well as one quarterfinal (2020) and semi-final (2021) appearance. With four championships already in the club’s history, they’ll be eager not to allow five-time winners Toulouse to streak further ahead on overall tournament victories.
The visitors snuck through their quarterfinal encounter with Munster last week in just the second penalty shootout ever in the Champions Cup. While the Limerick boys are certainly nothing to scoff at, Leinster should provide an even greater challenge for Antoine Dupont et al. this weekend. There won’t be as much space to attack in Dublin, nor will there be as much competition at scum time.
Toulouse won’t get lucky at the Aviva twice in a row — especially after their taxing last outing. Leinster’s superb defensive organisation and grunt up front should thwart the offensive threats of the French outfit for the most part and get them to the finale.
Sunday 15 May
Racing 79/100 | Draw 19/1 | La Rochelle 11/10 (16:00)
Three-time runners-up Racing 92 host last season’s losing finalists La Rochelle in an all-French affair at La Defense Arena on Sunday.
After a closely contested opening, Racing’s enduring class eventually powered them to a commanding 41-22 win over Sale Sharks in last week’s quarter-final. Some magic moments from Finn Russell amongst others has set them up for Sunday’s showdown with a side just four points back of them on the Top 14 standings.
Ronan O’Gara’s men haven’t quite reached the lofty heights of last season when they contested domestic and European finals, but they’re still a bloody quality outfit. Their 31-19 defeat of Top 14 leaders Montpellier a week ago underlined this fact, and their experience from their last campaign is sure to stand them in good stead against an equally tough Racing outfit here.
Back the visitors to make back-to-back finals with a win here and claim their second French scalp in succession.