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Guinness Six Nations stars gear up for European semi-finals

Dupont Ntamack Toulouse

Grand Slam-winning France stars Antoine Dupont and Romain Ntamack will lead Toulouse into battle against Leinster in the Heineken Champions Cup semi-final this weekend.

Toulouse are the defending champions and after a dramatic shoot-out win over Munster in the quarter-final are looking to move one game away from a sixth European title with victory in Dublin on Saturday.

A week after that historic win in the Irish capital, Toulouse return to the city and make three changes, with 2022 Guinness Six Nations winners Anthony Jelonch and Cyrill Baille restored to the pack.

Meanwhile Leinster are chasing a first final since 2019 as they aim to lift the trophy for the first time in four years and stand a chance of drawing level with Toulouse on five European cups if they defeat their French opponents at the Aviva Stadium.

Leo Cullen has named an unchanged team packed full of the Ireland internationals who helped Andy Farrell’s side finish second in this year’s Championship.

Josh van der Flier celebrates scoring their third try with Jamison-Gibson Park and Johnny Sexton 19/3/2022

Leinster saw off Gallagher Premiership leaders Leicester Tigers 23-14 at Mattioli Woods Welford Road in their quarter-final and are set to continue their longstanding rivalry with Toulouse.

The other semi-final takes place on Sunday and is an all-France affair as Racing 92 host La Rochelle.

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Scotland fly-half Finn Russell will once again pull the strings for Racing after his magic helped them see off Sale Sharks 41-22 in last Sunday’s quarter-final.

He is partnered by scrum-half Nolann Le Garrec, a previous France Under-20s captain, while imperious France centre Gael Fickou captains the side.

La Rochelle are coached by Guinness Six Nations and Ireland legend Ronan O’Gara and have 2022 Player of the Championship nominee Gregory Alldritt at No.8 with both eager to get one over their Top 14 rivals after doing just that when beating Montpellier in the last eight.

In the Challenge Cup, Saracens have named a star-studded side to take on Toulon with England captain Owen Farrell skippering the Men in Black with fellow Red Rose internationals Jamie George and Maro Itoje joined by Wales centre Nick Tompkins in the starting XV.

England's Owen Farrell

Sarries put on a clinical display to beat fellow Premiership side Gloucester 44-17 last week but are set to face a sterner test against Toulon as they bid to make a first Challenge Cup final.

The French side only just scraped into the semi-finals as Henry Arundell’s wonder try wasn’t enough for London Irish to win as they slipped to a narrow 19-18 defeat.

Toulon have Italy’s Sergio Parisse at No.8, who holds the Guinness Six Nations’ record for most appearances with 69, and he is joined in the back row by France captain Charles Ollivon who scored a crucial try against the Exiles.

Earlier on Saturday, Lyon host Wasps after England prospect Alfie Barbeary’s late try helped Lee Blackett’s side book a trip to the south of France after a 30-24 win away against Edinburgh.

But if they are to progress further they will have to halt Lyon’s six-game winning streak after the Top 14 team also defeated Scottish opposition, beating Glasgow Warriors 35-27.