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Champions Cup

Toulon Owner, Boudjellal to Quit Club.

“Big changes”

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Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images

In big news, Toulon owner Mourad Boudjellal has revealed that he will leave the club.

During an interview with L’Equipe, Boudjellal honestly said that his time with the club is likely to come to an end around June 2023.

He said:

“I have four years left and then, for sure, I’ll move on – if I don’t go, you have to shoot me down,”

Toulon have clearly been struggling for consistency this season. Boudjellal has promised that major changes will be taking place at the club soon as between 12-15 players will come in soon with numerous departures also set to take place.

“A big change is coming,” Boudjellal said. “I decided that after the defeat in Edinburgh, when I posted the video of Snow White cleaning on Twitter.

“It’s time to bid farewell to guys who may not have been European champions. That way, we can stop talking about the past, stop comparing. I’m going on a new project. In the coming weeks, there will be many announcements in both directions.”

The club have already reached formal agreements with eight players, notably, Eben Ethzebeth, Nehe Milner-Skudder and Baptiste Serin.

Players who will be leaving the club include Guilhem Guirado, Malakai Fekitoa and Georgian academy hooker Badri Alkhazashvili. Players who are at the end of their contracts include Juandre Kruger, Mamuka Gorgodze, Francois Trinh-Duc and JP Pietersen.

Champions Cup

Leinster v Toulouse: Player Ratings, Highlights & Report

Leinster have secured their place in the Champions Cup final with a win over Toulouse

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Leinster will face Saracens in this season’s Champions Cup final after seeing off Toulouse 30-12 in the semi-final at the Aviva Stadium on Sunday.

The win means that Leinster will have the chance to win back-to-back titles and remain in the running to also defend their Pro 14 crown.

The away side got off to the perfect start when Thomas Ramos slotted over a fifth minute penalty to put them 3-0 up.

Five minutes on and Leinster were level thanks to a Johnny Sexton penalty.

From the resulting kick-off Ramos kicked the ball past the end zone and out for a Leinster scrum on half-way. Leinster had nine phases before sending the ball through the hands and over to James Lowe who battled through two tacklers to touch-down in the corner.

Sexton converted from the angle and suddenly Leinster were 10-3 ahead.

Leinster never looked back from there and when Richie Gray was sin-binned for an intentional knock-on in his own 22 they capitalised.

Sexton went to the corner and after securing the line-out the boys in blue marched towards the line, with Luke McGrath diving over the white-wash. Sexton sent over the extras with another impressive kick and it was 17-3 with 25 minutes played.

Robbie Henshaw was sent to the bin on the half-hour mark for a deliberate knock-on of his own. From that penalty Ramos got the visitors back in the game kicking the three points.

Leinster thought they had scored another try with the clock in red as James Lowe raced over to touch down only for the TMO to penalise Jack Conan for obstruction in the build-up and reverse the decision meaning it was 17-6 at the whistle.

Toulouse started the second-half as they did the first with Ramos knocking over an early penalty to make it 17-9.

That meant little minutes later when great work from Jordan Larmour and Cian Healy allowed Scott Fardy to stretch and score another try. Sexton was perfect with his kick once more to leave the score at 24-9.

Maxime Medard came on and thought he had got the visitors back into the game with a chip and chase only for replays to show that Garry Ringrose got to the ball first. Fellow substitute Romain Ntamack kicked a penalty from the previous play to make it 24-12.

That kick was equalled by man-of-the-match Sexton’s penalty on 65 minutes before he left the pitch to be replaced by Ross Byrne.

Byrne had the final say of the game when he knocked over a penalty with three minutes left meaning the home side finished as 30-12 victors.

Leinster will now look to bring that form into the Pro 14 semi-final before heading to St. James Park in Newcastle on May 11th to attempt to win a record fifth European crown against Saracens. Toulouse on the other hand will hope to continue their march toward the Top 14 title after a disappointing day at the office.

Player Ratings:

Leinster = Rob Kearney (7), Jordan Larmour (7), Garry Ringrose (8), Robbie Henshaw (6), James Lowe (8), Johnny Sexton (9), Luke McGrath (8); Cian Healy (7), Sean O’Brien (7), Tadhg Furlong (7), Devin Toner (7), James Ryan (8), Scott Fardy (8), Sean O’Brien (7), Jack Conan (7)
Replacements (7)

Toulouse = Thomas Ramos (7), Yoann Huget (5), Sofiane Guitoune (6), Pita Ahki (5), Cheslin Kolbe (6), Antoine Dupont (6), Sebastien Bezy (5); Clement Castets (5), Peato Mauvaka (5), Charlie Faumunia (6), Richie Arnold (5), Richie Gray (5), Rynhard Elstadt (6), Joe Tekori (5), Jerome Kaino (6)
Replacements (6)

Match Highlights:

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Champions Cup

Munster Fall to Seventh Straight Semi-Final Defeat

Munster have been knocked out of the Champions Cup at the semi-final stage once more with defeat to Saracens

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Hopes of an All-Irish Champions Cup final are over after Munster lost 32-16 to Saracens in the semi-final stage at the Ricoh Arena on Saturday.

The loss is Munster’s seventh semi-final defeat in a row and means the nations hopes now lie with Leinster as they face Toulouse on Sunday for a place in the final.

The huge physical battle was kicked off by Owen Farrell, who knocked over a penalty after only two minutes to put the hosts 3-0 up.

On nine minutes Munster struck level thanks to a Tyler Bleyendaal penalty.

Farrell kicked a further two penalties without reply by the 26th minute as Saracens went 9-3 ahead.

Bleyendaal slotted home his second penalty of the afternoon, before Conor Murray stepped up to score a monster long-range penalty to bring the sides level.

On the stroke of half-time Farrell finished as he started with his fourth penalty of the game to bring the home side 12-9 up at the whistle.

The visitor’s massive defensive effort in the opening half told only two minutes into the second half as Saracens kept the ball well before Michael Rhodes got in for the first try of the game. Farrell converted to stretch their lead out to 19-9.

By the 53rd minute they were further in front when Farrell kicked his fifth and sixth penalties of the day to make it 25-9.

With 20 minutes remaining Munster got themselves back into the game as they worked the ball out to Darren Sweetnam who raced over to touch-down. JJ Hanrahan converted to make it 25-16.

Billy Vunipola got the next score with 10 minutes left when he broke through for his sides second try. Farrell was on hand once more to add the extras.

Saracens were reduced to 14 men when Vincent Koch was sin-binned, but it made little difference as Saracens held on for a 32-16 win.

After the game a fan wearing a Munster jersey confronted Billy Vunipola following his support for Israel Folau’s anti-LGBT comments on social media recently. Which left a soar taste to the tie.

In the post-match press conference Munster head coach Johann van Graan admitted his side were second-best on the day.

“We weren’t good enough on the day, we got beaten by the better team so no excuses from our side,” he said.

Saracens march on to the final in Newcastle now where they will face either Leinster or Toulouse. While Munster now look towards their next game with Connacht as they look to pip Glasgow to top spot in Conference A of the Pro 14.

Player Ratings:

Saracens = Alex Goode (7), David Strettle (7), Alex Lozowski (6), Brad Barritt (6), Liam Williams (7), Owen Farrell (9), Ben Spencer (8); Mako Vunipola (7), Jamie George (7), Titi Lamositele (8), Maro Itoje (8), George Kruis (7), Michael Rhodes (8), Jackson Wray (7), Billy Vunipola (7)

Replacements (7)

Munster = Mike Haley (6), Andrew Conway (6), Chris Farrell (6), Niall Scannell (7), Darren Sweetnam (7), Tyler Bleyendaal (6), Conor Murray (7); Dave Kilcoyne (7), Niall Scannell (6), John Ryan (5), Jean Kleyn (7), Tadhg Beirne (6), Peter O’Mahony (6), Jack O’Donoghue (6), CJ Stander (8)

Replacements (6)

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Champions Cup

Earls and Carbery Out but Munster Name Strong Team

Munster have named their team for their Champions Cup semi-final and it’s going to take some beating

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Munster have made 12 changes to the side that defeated Benetton last weekend for their Champions Cup semi-final against Saracens at the Ricoh Arena on Saturday at 15 00.

Joey Carbery misses out as expected but he is joined on the side lines by quarter-final hero Keith Earls. Otherwise Munster are almost at full strength for the game.

Dave Kilcoyne, Niall Scannell and John Ryan start in the front-row for the reds with Jean Kleyn and Tadhg Beirne slotting behind in the second-row.

Peter O’Mahony captains the side on his 50th Champions Cup appearance and is joined in the back-row by Jack Donoghue and CJ Stander.

Conor Murray will look to run things from the half-backs alongside Tyler Bleyendaal. While Rory Scannell and Chris Farrell come in at 12 and 13 respectively.

Darren Sweetnam begins on the left-wing, with Andrew Conway on the right and Mike Haley continuing at full-back to finish the starting XV.

On the bench Rhys Marshell, Jeremy Loughman, Stephen Archer, Billy Holland and Arno Botha are the forward replacements. Alby Mathewson, JJ Hanrahan and Dan Goggin are cover for the backs.

Speaking ahead of the game Munster head coach Johann van Graan believes that his team will be facing the best side in this year’s tournament thus far.

“They’ve been the team of the Champions Cup thus far. They haven’t lost a game yet, they’ve played some fantastic rugby and scored the most tries and they’ve got a lot of world class players in their team, so, we’re definitely up against a massive challenge away from home on Saturday afternoon,” he said.

The opposition is formidable with Mako Vunipola, Jamie George and Titi Lamositele locking down in the front-three, with England duo Maro Itoje and George Kruis as the locks.

Michael Rhodes, Jackson Wray and Billy Vunipola make up the back-row. Vunipola will be sure to get some reaction from the fans following his recent support for Israel Folau’s comments towards the LGBT community.

Ben Spencer partners Owen Farrell in the half-backs, with Brad Barritt and Alex Lozowski in the centre.

Liam Williams and Sean Maitland open on the wings and Alex Goode slots in at 15.

With the likes of Will Skelton, Schalk Burger and Richard Wigglesworth to call on from the bench, Saracens will be a constant threat throughout the game.

Whoever wins this game will be incredibly difficult as final opponents for either Leinster or Toulouse.

Key Battles:

Mako Vunipola vs Dave Kilcoyne = This game could be won or lost at the breakdown and the set-piece. Although they won’t be on the same side of the scrum both of these will be vital to pushing their team toward the final. Kilcoyne will also be expected to put in as many big hits as possible on the English star who will look to burst holes in the Munster defence. These two could hold the key to their side’s success or failure.

Billy Vunipola vs CJ Stander = Two massive ball carriers and two massive players for their respective teams. Vunipola will be under pressure to perform following his off-field antics over the past couple of weeks, while Stander will need to lead from the front as always. The personal battle of these is reason enough to watch this game.

Owen Farrell vs Tyler Bleyendaal = Farrell has been in remarkable form this year and after missing out on a Six Nations title and the quarter-final of the Champions Cup he will wan to add the trophy to his cabinet. Bleyendaal is another who has had an amazing spell this year and will need to be at his best to keep Farrell from turning screw on Munster. Both kickers will need their accuracy to be on point as every point will count in this clash.

No matter who comes out on top on Saturday one thing is for sure it will be well deserved as we could be in for a real treat of a game if both sides get into their groove.

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