European Champions Cup & Challenge Cup semi-final guide

Last Updated April 22 2017, 12:30

Team news, kick-off times, TV details & odds ahead of the semi-finals of the European Champions Cup and Challenge Cup.

Saracens are England's sole representatives in this weekend's European Champions Cup semi-finals as they prepare to face Munster.

But there could two Aviva Premiership clubs in the European Challenge Cup final should Gloucester and Bath overcome their last-four showdowns.

Here is everything you need to know including kick-off times and TV coverage details, team news, statistics & Sky Bet odds.

European Champions Cup semi-finals


Odds correct at 1000 BST on 21/04/2017 

Munster v Saracens


Date: Saturday, April 22
Kick-off time
: 1515 BST
TV Channel: BT Sport 3
Venue: Aviva Stadium 

Sky Bet odds: Munster 6/4, Saracens 4/7

Team News: All six of the Saracens players selected for this summer's British and Irish Lions tour - Mako Vunipola, Jamie George, Maro Itoje, George Kruis, Billy Vunipola and Owen Farrell - are in the starting line-up for the semi-final with Munster.

Munster's Lions scrum-half Conor Murray remains on the sidelines with an ongoing shoulder/neck problem picked up when Ireland were beaten by Wales on March 10.

Murray's fellow Lions CJ Stander and Peter O'Mahony both start as Munster target a first final appearance since 2008 while Duncan Williams continues in the number nine shirt.

Munster: Simon Zebo; Andrew Conway, Jaco Taute, Rory Scannell, Keith Earls; Tyler Bleyendaal, Duncan Williams; Dave Kilcoyne, Niall Scannell, John Ryan; Donnacha Ryan, Billy Holland; Peter O'Mahony (capt), Tommy O'Donnell, CJ Stander.

Replacements: Rhys Marshall, James Cronin, Stephen Archer, Dave O'Callaghan, Jean Deysel, Ian Keatley, Francis Saili, Darren Sweetnam.

Saracens: Alex Goode; Chris Ashton, Marcelo Bosch, Brad Barritt (capt), Sean Maitland; Owen Farrell, Richard Wigglesworth; Mako Vunipola, Jamie George, Vincent Koch; Maro Itoje, George Kruis; Michael Rhodes, Jackson Wray, Billy Vunipola

Replacements: Schalk Brits, Titi Lamositele, Petrus Du Plessis, Jim Hamilton, Schalk Burger, Ben Spencer, Alex Lozowski, Chris Wyles 

Pre-match quotes

Saracens boss Mark McCall on a fifth successive European last-four clash: "We have an experienced group who for the last eight seasons have been through a lot of on-field experiences - some good, some bad. They are all in the bank and they are important things to call on. We are accustomed to these occasions.

"The fact some of our English players were at the Aviva a few weeks ago is a good thing. The players won't be surprised by what is waiting, albeit it will be a very special atmosphere. We've got a group who know they can rely on each other, and if it's 40,000 Munster men and us, then we will back each other.

"These occasions bring out the best in the group. The more they play them, the more they relish them. It is going to be difficult at times. There will be times in the match when we are under pressure and they've got all the momentum, and we have got to show our experience in those moments - we have got to be resilient.

"Munster are an unbelievably well-organised side. The turnaround from last year to this year has been incredible. But not only are they hugely well organised, they work incredibly hard. They are superb defensively. They have the best defensive record in the Guinness PRO12 and the Champions Cup. They are hard to break down.

"They have only lost four out of 27 games this season, which is pretty good. They have resilience that means they stay in the fight and scrap for everything, and it is going to be like that on Saturday."

Munster skipper Peter O'Mahony: "We always pride ourselves on how we do in Europe, and we let ourselves down over the past couple of years.

"But we have a different group now, and we are a different animal. We've learnt a lot of lessons, and we now go about our business in a different way."

Clermont v Leinster


Date: Sunday, April 23
Kick-off time
: 1600 BST
TV Channel: Sky Sports 3
Venue:  Stade de Gerland 

Sky Bet odds: Clermont 4/7, Leinster 5/4

Team News: Sean O'Brien has been ruled out of Leinster's Champions Cup semi-final against Clermont at Stade de Gerland on Sunday.

O'Brien, who heads to New Zealand with the British and Irish Lions next month, has been ruled out due to what Leinster say is tightness in his hamstring, and he will be assessed again ahead of next Friday's PRO12 game against Glasgow.

Rhys Ruddock comes into the team at blindside flanker, with Dan Leavy moving to openside, while Leinster's other 2017 Lions - centre Robbie Henshaw, fly-half Jonathan Sexton and props Jack McGrath and Tadhg Furlong - all start.

Cian Healy is another Leinster player who will tour New Zealand, but he is currently serving a two-week ban after being cited for dangerous play at the ruck during the province's victory over Connacht in the PRO12 last week.

Isa Nacewa captains the side and wins his 50th cap for Leinster in Europe, with Fergus McFadden featuring on the right wing for his 150th appearance for the province. Full-back Joey Carbery completes the back three. Luke McGrath and Johnny Sexton form the half-back pairing, while Robbie Henshaw joins Garry Ringrose in the midfield.

The front row is an all-international trio, as hooker Richardt Strauss packs down between McGrath and Furlong. Devin Toner partners Hayden Triggs in the second row, with No 8 Jack Conan linking up with Ruddock and Leavy in the back row.

On the bench there is a return to European action for Seán Cronin, while Peter Dooley is in line to make his first European appearance of the season should he be introduced.

Sunday marks Leinster's ninth appearance in the semi-finals - only Munster (12) and Toulouse (10) have reached the last four more often.

This is the ninth meeting between the sides in Europe, with Clermont having won their last two matches after losing five of the first six meetings. However, Leinster have won both knock-out clashes between the two; the 2010 quarter-final at the RDS Arena, and the 2012 semi-final in Bordeaux.

Clermont Auvergne: Scott Spedding, David Strettle, Aurélien Rougerie, Remi Lamerat, Nick Abendanon, Camille Lopez, Morgan Parra, Raphael Chaume, Benjamin Kayser, Davit Zirakashvili, Arthur Iturria, Sébastien Vahaamahina, Damien Chouly (c), Peceli Yato, Fritz Lee.

Replacements: John Ulugia, Etienne Falgoux, Aaron Jarvis, Paul Jedrasiak, Alexandre Lapandry, Ludovic Radosavljevic,  Pato Fernandez, Damien Penaud.

Leinster: Joey Carbery, Fergus McFadden, Garry Ringrose, Robbie Henshaw, Isa Nacewa (c), Johnny Sexton, Luke McGrath, Jack McGrath, Richardt Strauss, Tadhg Furlong, Devin Toner,  Hayden Triggs, Rhys Ruddock, Dan Leavy, Jack Conan.

Replacements: Seán Cronin, Peter Dooley, Michael Bent, Ross Molony, Josh van der Flier, Jamison Gibson-Park, Ross Byrne, Zane Kirchner.

European Challenge Cup semi-finals


Odds correct at 1000 BST on 21/04/2017 

La Rochelle v Gloucester


Date: Saturday, April 22
Kick-off time
: 2000 BST
TV Channel: BT Sport 3
Venue:  Stade Marcel Deflandre 

Sky Bet odds: La Rochelle 1/4, Gloucester 3/1

Team News: Scotland international Greig Laidlaw is set to return from injury in Gloucester's European Challenge Cup semi-final against La Rochelle on Saturday.

The scrum-half has not played since suffering an ankle injury during Scotland's RBS 6 Nations Championship loss to France 10 weeks ago.

But he has been named among Gloucester's replacements for the trip to Stade Marcel-Deflandre, where the west country club will face a team unbeaten at home this season.

Changes from the side that beat Aviva Premiership opponents Sale Sharks last weekend see starts for scrum-half Willi Heinz, wing David Halaifonua, lock Tom Savage, flanker Jacob Rowan and number eight Ben Morgan, while Gloucester's starting line-up also includes British and Irish Lions squad member Ross Moriarty.

La Rochelle currently lead the French Top 14 by 10 points, while they comfortably beat Gloucester on home soil during this season's Challenge Cup pool stage, although Gloucester defeated them at Kingsholm a week earlier.

La Rochelle: Murimurivalu; Lacroix, Jordaan, Aguillon, Rattez; James, Januarie; Pelo, Maurouard, Atonio (capt), Nailiko, Tanguy, Sazy, Veivuke, Gourdon.

Replacements: Seneca, Corbel, Boughanmi, Cedaro, Lagrange, Retiere, Bales, Rawaca.

Gloucester: Marshall; May, Trinder, Atkinson, Halaifonua; Burns, Heinz (capt); Hohneck, Hibbard, Afoa, Savage, Thrush, Moriarty, Rowan, Morgan.

Replacements: Matu'u, McAllister, Thomas, Galarza, Ludlow, Laidlaw, Twelvetrees, Sharples. 

Pre-match quotes

Gloucester rugby director David Humphreys: "It's obviously a huge game, and we also know the huge challenge that La Rochelle are going to bring, having played them twice this season. When you look at their record, I think until last weekend they had 12 consecutive wins in the Top 14, and that shows the quality of team they have.

"But our focus has been very much on what we've done over the past four weeks. We feel we are in a good place, we've been scoring some good tries and playing some good rugby. I think we are all very excited about going to La Rochelle as the underdogs, and almost with much less pressure than previously."

Stade Francais v Bath


Date: Sunday, April 23
Kick-off time
: 1330 BST
TV Channel: Sky Sports 3
Venue: Stade Jean Bouin 

Sky Bet odds: Stade Francais 4/6, Bath 11/10

Team News: Bath's England international lock Dave Attwood, who starts the Challenge Cup semi-final against Stade Francais in Paris on Sunday following four months out because of a knee injury.

Attwood partners Luke Charteris in the second-row, while Bath's 2017 Lions - Anthony Watson, Jonathan Joseph and Taulupe Faletau - all start.

Bath rugby director Todd Blackadder said: "This is a huge opportunity for the club to make it into a European final, and we will be leaving no stone unturned to progress.

"Stade Francais are a very physical side with world-class players across the park, so we will have to be at our very best to ensure we are on the right side of the result on Sunday."

The Challenge Cup final takes place at Murrayfield on May 12. Victories for Gloucester and Bath would mean a fifth all-English final in the competition's history, with Bath having contested three of the previous four.

Stade Français: Hugo Bonneval, Waisea Vuidarvuwalu, Geoffrey Doumayrou, Jonathan Danty, Djibril Camara, Jules Plisson, Will Genia; Zurabi Zhvania, Laurent Panis, Rabah Slimani, Hugh Pyle, Paul Gabrillagues, Antoine Burban, Sylvain Nicolas, Sergio Parisse (capt).

Replacements: Craig Burden, Heinke Van der Merwe, Paul Alo Emile, Pascal Papé, Jonathan Ross, Julien Dupuy, Morné Steyn, Julien Arias.

Bath: Anthony Watson, Semesa Rokoduguni, Jonathan Joseph, Ben Tapuai, Matt Banahan, George Ford (co-capt), Kahn Fotuali'i; Nathan Catt, Ross Batty, Kane Palma-Newport, Luke Charteris, Dave Attwood, Tom Ellis, Francois Louw (co-capt), Taulupe Faletau.

Replacements: 16 Nathan Charles, 17 Beno Obano, 18 Shaun Knight, 19 Elliott Stooke, 20 Matt Garvey, 21 Chris Cook, 22 Rhys Priestland, 23 Robbie Fruean.

Pre-match quotes

Bath rugby director Todd Blackadder: "This is a huge opportunity for the club to make it into a European final, and we will be leaving no stone unturned to progress.

"Stade Francais are a very physical side with world-class players across the park, so we will have to be at our very best to ensure we are on the right side of the result on Sunday." 

Racing Tips

Sunday Racing Tips

Nick Robson previews Sunday's meetings in the UK and Ireland and he fancies Paul Nicholls' San Satiro.

Breaking It Down: Wex lyrical

Murt Khan heads to Stratford this afternoon and his best bet runs in the novice handicap chase.

Saturday's Gallops Report

Our Gallops Reporter has the latest from Newmarket as Sir Michael Stoute's team begin to get into full swing.

Next Race Off
11:10 Greyville
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Oligarch
J: Bernard Fayd'Herbe
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J: Marco V'Rensburg
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Football Tips

Weekend Premier League tips

Divock Origi is backed to find the target when Liverpool take on Crystal Palace in Sunday's clash

Weekend FA Cup tips

Matt Brocklebank expects Arsenal to beat Manchester City in a lively FA Cup semi-final at Wembley on Sunday.

El Clasico betting tips

Spanish football expert Tim Clement looks at the best ways to back Real Madrid for El Clasico against Barcelona.

Racing Tips

Sunday Racing Tips

Nick Robson previews Sunday's meetings in the UK and Ireland and he fancies Paul Nicholls' San Satiro.

Breaking It Down: Wex lyrical

Murt Khan heads to Stratford this afternoon and his best bet runs in the novice handicap chase.

Saturday's Gallops Report

Our Gallops Reporter has the latest from Newmarket as Sir Michael Stoute's team begin to get into full swing.

Next Race Off
11:10 Greyville
6
(11)
Oligarch
J: Bernard Fayd'Herbe
8
(9)
Prince Of Promise
J: Marco V'Rensburg
3
(12)
Freddie Flint
J: Ashton Arries

Football Tips

Weekend Premier League tips

Divock Origi is backed to find the target when Liverpool take on Crystal Palace in Sunday's clash

Weekend FA Cup tips

Matt Brocklebank expects Arsenal to beat Manchester City in a lively FA Cup semi-final at Wembley on Sunday.

El Clasico betting tips

Spanish football expert Tim Clement looks at the best ways to back Real Madrid for El Clasico against Barcelona.