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Champions Cup

Champion’s Cup Semi-Finalists – Power Ranking

How we rank them.

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Photo credit should read GABRIEL BOUYS/AFP/Getty Images

One of the most dramatic weekends of European rugby in recent memory has set up some very tasty Champion’s Cup semi-finals. Munster got the job done in Edinburgh, to set up a meeting with Saracens, who demolished Glasgow. Leinster saw off the challenge of Ulster in an absolute cracker in the Aviva, to book their spot against Toulouse, after the French club pulled off a dramatic one point win away to Racing. After such thrilling rugby this weekend which team is looking the hottest?

  1. Saracens

Sarries are just looking so good right now. Putting 56 points on a team as good as Glasgow is no mean feat, and they managed this without their most important player Owen Farrell. Saracens were the only club to win all of their pool games, and just have depth and danger all over the park. Liam Williams has been one of the best in the world in his position for the past two or three years and people have been calling for Alex Goode to be playing for England for as long. He showed his versatility this weekend by taking over at 10 when Owen Farrell got called away to the maternity ward, running plays like a guy who plays 10 week in week out. Saracens have X-factor all over the park, and are going to take some stopping.

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     2. Leinster

The champions were run close this weekend by Ulster, but are still a dangerous proposition. Perhaps not quite on the same level as they were last year, Leo Cullen’s charges have a more difficult task ahead of them this year, as they welcome a Toulouse side in flying form to the Aviva. Leinster’s backline depth has been criticised recently, with some people saying that their “stand-ins” (the likes of Dave Kearney, Adam Byrne, Rory O’Loughlin) are not up to scratch for top tier European rugby. Of course reading this you think back to Leinster’s pool game against Toulouse in the RDS, where all these “stand-ins” played and Leinster won comfortably. A fairly safe bet for the final, with a full compliment.

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3.      Toulouse

Toulouse are back big time this season. Beat the champions in their first pool game, and defeated Racing in a thriller in the U Arena at the weekend after losing Zach Holmes for a high tackle in the first half. The French giants are flying in the Top 14 this year, they are ten points clear at the top of the table with only two losses from 20 games. They will not fear coming to Dublin, but you would think home advantage will play a big part for Leinster.

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4. Munster

Munster are up against it, to put it simply. They will be travelling to the Ricoh Arena to take on Saracens. Munster last played Sarries in the Aviva in 2017, at the same stage of the competition, losing 26-10. It is hard to see Munster coming away with the win here but Munster have a habit of pulling off wins when you don’t expect. Munster are in great form, but Saracens just look unbeatable these days

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Champions Cup

Leinster name team to face Montpellier

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(Photo By Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile via Getty Images)

The Leinster Rugby squad, proudly sponsored by Bank of Ireland, has been named by Leo Cullen ahead of Sunday’s Heineken Champions Cup game against Montpellier at the RDS Arena (KO 1pm – live on BT Sport and Newstalk).

The side will be captained by James Ryan and it will be the first time that the team has played since the fixture against Bath in Aviva Stadium on 11 December.

Hugo Keenan will wear the number 15 jersey, with Jordan Larmour and Jimmy O’Brien on the wings. O’Brien made his European debut against Montpellier last season.

In the centre, Ciarán Frawley and Garry Ringrose are selected, while Jamison Gibson-Park and Ross Byrne are the half-backs selected by Cullen.

In the pack, Andrew Porter, Rónan Kelleher and Tadhg Furlong start in the front row with Ross Molony and James Ryan an all-St. Michael’s College second row.

Caelan Doris, Josh van der Flier and Jack Conan complete Cullen’s starting XV.

On the bench, Rhys Ruddock is in line to win his 50th Champions Cup cap for Leinster Rugby should he be introduced.

Leinster Rugby team v Montpellier (caps in brackets):

15. Hugo Keenan (36)
14. Jordan Larmour (67)
13. Garry Ringrose (92)
12. Ciarán Frawley (42)
11. Jimmy O’Brien (38)
10. Ross Byrne (111)
9. Jamison Gibson-Park (106)

1. Andrew Porter (82)
2. Rónan Kelleher (30)
3. Tadhg Furlong (118)
4. Ross Molony (123)
5. James Ryan (53) CAPTAIN
6. Caelan Doris (45)
7. Josh van der Flier (104)
8. Jack Conan (107)

Replacements:

16. Dan Sheehan (19)
17. Cian Healy (238)
18. Michael Ala’alatoa (7)
19. Rhys Ruddock (196)
20. Max Deegan (71)
21. Luke McGrath (158)
22. Johnny Sexton (176)
23. James Lowe (57)

Referee – Wayne Barnes (RFU)

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Champions Cup

Ulster team named for away clash against Northampton Saints

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Photo By Oliver McVeigh/Sportsfile via Getty Images

Ireland international, Robert Baloucoune, will make a welcome return from injury to join Ulster’s match-day squad travelling to cinch Stadium on Sunday to face Northampton Saints (Sunday, 3.15pm kick-off).

The winger has been named on the right wing with Mike Lowry and Ethan McIlroy taking up the full-back and left wing starting positions. Stewart Moore comes in to partner James Hume in the centre. Billy Burns has been selected at out-half with Nathan Doak, who is set to make his first European start, joining him at scrum-half.

Andrew Warwick and Marty Moore will pack down either side of Rob Herring in the front row. Alan O’Connor will once again captain the side, and joining him in the second row is Kieran Treadwell. Marcus Rea will start at blindside flanker, with Nick Timoney named at openside and Duane Vermeulen at Number Eight.

John Andrew, Eric O’Sullivan, Tom O’Toole, Sam Carter and Greg Jones are named as forward replacements, with David Shanahan, Ian Madigan and Ben Moxham providing back line cover.

Ulster team to play Northampton Saints, Heineken Champions Cup Round 3, Sunday 16 January at cinch Stadium at Franklin’s Gardens, kick-off 3.15pm, live on BT Sport:

(15-9) Mike Lowry, Robert Baloucoune, James Hume, Stewart Moore, Ethan McIlroy, Billy Burns, Nathan Doak;

(1-8) Andrew Warwick, Rob Herring, Marty Moore, Alan O’Connor (Capt.), Kieran Treadwell, Marcus Rea, Nick Timoney, Duane Vermeulen.

Replacements: John Andrew, Eric O’Sullivan, Tom O’Toole, Sam Carter, Greg Jones, David Shanahan, Ian Madigan, Ben Moxham.

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Champions Cup

Scarlets forfeit Champions Cup opener v Bristol

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Scarlets are disappointed to announce that we have forfeited our round one Heineken Champions Cup match against Bristol Bears, due to be played on Saturday, December 11.

Following discussions between Scarlets management, coaches, players and medical and conditioning staff, the overwhelming feeling was that it would be a physical risk to select any of the 32 front-line squad members who are currently in quarantine in a hotel outside of Belfast.

Since returning from South Africa, the travelling party have been in a strict 10-day quarantine, confined to their rooms with limited outdoor time a day without having been able to train as a group. That isolation period is due to end on Friday, December 10 – just a day before the Bristol fixture.

At present, we have 14 fit Scarlets players training at Parc y Scarlets – seven senior players and seven development players. 

We would like to thank the Ospreys and Dragons for their offer of assistance, but, unfortunately, we have been unable to put together a match-day squad that can safely take the field against the Bears.

“It is a decision we haven’t taken lightly,” said Scarlets Executive Chairman Simon Muderack.

“This is a great fixture between two great clubs, which supporters, players and staff on both sides were all looking forward to.

“Ultimately, though, the welfare of our players has to be our priority and following discussions with our staff it was felt that there was too much risk to ask the players currently in quarantine to play a game of this magnitude and intensity just a day after coming out of quarantine. You have to remember, the squad have been in isolation since the news of this Omicron variant first emerged when they were still in Durban so it will be something like 15 days in all. Also, a lot of the players haven’t played since the Benetton game on October 22. As a club we have a duty of care to our players.

“With only 14 squad members training at the Parc, half of them young development players, we did look into the possibility of registering players from other regions and we have been grateful for the positive response from Ospreys and Dragons. But, any players we did loan would effectively be ‘cup-tied’ which has made that option a challenge as well.

“With the integrity of the competition in mind, we felt we were unable to put together a match-day 23 that would safely be able to take the field against the Bears.

“We are all disappointed. I know a lot of fans had booked accommodation in Bristol and have been looking forward to this game for some time. But I am sure everyone will understand the situation we have found ourselves in through no fault of our own. 

“I would also like to stress that we have returned no positive Covid-19 cases in all the rounds of PCR testing prior to leaving and since arriving in South Africa and Northern Ireland.

“We would like to thank everyone at Bristol Bears and EPCR for their understanding of our predicament and look forward to welcoming Pat Lam and his side to Parc y Scarlets for the return fixture in January.”

For those supporters who have purchased tickets and official coach travel for the game, further details will be published shortly.

Source – Scarlets Rugby

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