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European Champions Cup semi-final preview: Leinster looking to reach home final

There are just four clubs remaining as the European Champions Cup hurtles towards a conclusion, with the semi-finals taking place this weekend in Dublin and Bordeaux.

Saturday provides a mouth-watering encounter, which would have been worthy of the final, as Leinster host Toulouse at the Aviva Stadium. 

Once the dust has settled on the action in Dublin, where the Champions Cup final will be held on 20th May, all eyes will be on Bordeaux as Exeter Chiefs make the trip across the Channel to face La Rochelle on Sunday. 

Test level rugby in store at the Aviva

WhatLeinster v Toulouse
WhereAviva Stadium, Dublin
When15:00, Saturday 29th April
How to watchITV & BT Sport 3
OddsLeinster 1/3, Tie 25/1, Toulouse 12/5

Ireland and France have emerged as the two powerhouses of northern hemisphere rugby over the last couple of years and their two best club representatives go head to head on Saturday. 

With top place in the United Rugby Championship already assured, Leinster have been able to manage their players’ workloads in recent weeks, with the focus on this semi-final showdown with the stars of Toulouse. 

Ireland fly-half Johnny Sexton, who guided his country to a Six Nations Grand Slam this year, will unfortunately miss out on Saturday’s game and looks to have played his last game for Leinster. 

Sexton has confirmed he will be hanging up his boots after the World Cup this year, with Ireland 4/1 to win the major tournament on French soil in October.  

A groin injury picked up in the Six Nations means Sexton is likely to miss the remainder of the season with Leinster and that will give Toulouse a boost in their hopes of causing an upset at the Aviva. 

Ross Byrne has been performing well in Sexton’s absence and it will be interesting to see how he goes against opposite number Romain Ntamack. 

Toulouse-born Ntamack and Antoine Dupont are possibly the best half-back partnership in world rugby and will be key for France in their hopes of winning the World Cup on home soil later this year - something they are 11/4 favourites to achieve.  

With Leinster so strong at the Aviva, it will take a mighty performance for Toulouse to pull off a shock win in 80 minutes at 12/5.  

Leinster can win this one by more than a converted score and are available at 10/11 to come out on top with a -8.5 Handicap. 

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Scotland's Stuart Hogg to retire after 2023 Rugby World Cup

A big ask of Chiefs in Bordeaux

WhatLa Rochelle v Exeter Chiefs
WhereNouveau Stade de Bordeaux, Bordeaux
When15:00, Sunday 30th April
How to watchBT Sport 1
OddsLa Rochelle 1/5, Tie 33/1, Exeter Chiefs 7/2

Rob Baxter’s Exeter Chiefs have a huge challenge on their hands when they travel across the Channel to take on La Rochelle in Bordeaux. 

La Rochelle are just one point behind frontrunners Toulouse in the Top 14 standings and have enjoyed an impressive season so far. 

With former Ireland fly-half Ronan O’Gara at the helm, La Rochelle have pedigree in this competition and are the reigning Champions Cup holders after finishing runners-up in the 2020-21 season. 

Exeter are also former champions, but the Chiefs have not been able to reach the same heights this season as they have in the past. 

Missing out on the Premiership play-offs this year shows how Exeter have suffered a domestic dip and the Chiefs have done remarkably well to reach the last four of the Champions Cup. 

Sunday could well be the last club game for Stuart Hogg, who like Sexton, has also confirmed he will be retiring after the World Cup with Scotland. 

A British & Irish Lion on three tours, a Pro 12, Premiership and Champions Cup winner, Hogg will be doing all he can to try and extend his club career by another game by reaching the final on 20th May in Dublin. 

However, La Rochelle have recent experience of what it takes to win this competition and home advantage might be enough to see them over the line.

La Rochelle to win with a -11.5 Handicap is available at 10/11 for what should be another thrilling semi-final this weekend. 

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