Champions Cup Rugby semi-finals this weekend

Both Leinster Rugby Head Coach, Leo Cullen, and Racing 92’s joint Head Coach, Laurent Travers, are bidding to become the first men to win the European Cup as both player and coach as their sides play in the semi-finals of this season’s competition.

Cullen captained Leinster to their three victories in 2009, 2011 and 2012, while Travers was part of the famous Brive side that captured the trophy way back in 1997.

Dublin’s Aviva Stadium – formerly Lansdowne Road – will be staging a tournament semi-final for the eighth time on Saturday, while it will be semi-final number four for Stade Chaban-Delmas in Bordeaux on Sunday.

Leinster have played four tournament semi-finals at Lansdowne Road/Aviva Stadium and have lost three, the only win coming against Toulouse in 2011.

The statistics are strong for a Leinster win on Saturday and a Racing 92 victory on Sunday as twenty-eight of the 44 European Cup semi-finals to date have been won by the club with home country advantage – a 64% success rate. Racing 92 reversed that trend, however, in their one semi-final appearance when they defeated Leicester Tigers at Nottingham’s City Ground in 2016.

Current Scarlets Backs Coach, Stephen Jones, jointly holds the record with Jonny Wilkinson of seven successful penalties in a semi-final. Jones was on target in the Scarlets’ – then Llanelli – 31-28 defeat by Northampton Saints in 2000. He is also second on the all-time tournament scoring list with 869.

Johnny Sexton has scored a total of 587 tournament points to date (sixth on the all-time list), and needs 13 at the Aviva Stadium to reach the 600-mark.

Club captain, Ken Owens, is the one remaining squad member from Scarlets’ last appearance in a semi-final in 2007.

Munster have played seven ‘away’ semi-finals against TOP 14 clubs (including one against Biarritz in San Sebastian) and have two wins to their credit: the famous victory over Toulouse at Stade Chaban-Delmas, the venue for their 13th semi-final on Sunday afternoon, in 2000 and a further success against Castres in Béziers in 2002.

Keith Earls and Donnacha Ryan were in the Munster match day squad for the province’s last European Cup triumph in Cardiff in 2008. Following his move to Racing 92, Ryan will be trying to prevent his former teammates from reaching the final for a fifth time.

Of the four semi-finalists, Munster Rugby’s Ian Keatley has scored the most tournament points this season with 71, while the Scarlets’ Gareth Davies is the top try scorer with four.

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