Heineken Cup semi-final previews

This is one of my favourite weekends in the rugby, and the entire sporting, calendar: the Heineken Cup semi-finals, as a long European season boils down to one opportunity to play for the top prize.

Heineken Cup trophy

All those away trips to far-flung places on cold winter nights, the pain, the injuries, the surprising victories, the desperate defeats – from all of that, just four teams remain, but lose in the semi-final stage and no-one will remember that you had a good season in the Heineken Cup.

Qualify for the final, and you’ll play on the big stage and will last longer in the memory even if you are the runner-up. Many players have said that defeat at the semi-final stage is the worst way to go out, and Munster, Leinster, Cardiff and Leicester will be desperate to make that final.

Munster v Leinster, Saturday, 5.30pm

The Dubliners face the unenvious task of a winner-takes-all showdown with Munster, the in-form team, reigning European Champions and hot favourites to lift the title (Leinster are available at 4.4 on Betfair to win this match).

It’s difficult to see anything but a Munster win following their impressive showing against the Ospreys, and although the game is at the fairly neutral venue of Croke Park, Leinster will need to conjure some magic to proceed to the final in Edinburgh.

The underdogs will be somewhat encouraged by their heroic defensive efforts at the Stoop in the quarter-finals, where they denied Harlequins from crossing their line for so long to emerge one-point victors.

Munster offer a different threat though, and I predict that they’ll continue their unrelenting march to the final in Edinburgh.

Cardiff Blues v Leicester, Sunday, 15:00

Cardiff Blues also go into their semi-final off the back of a big win over a top team, after their thrashing of Gloucester to win the EDF Energy Cup. The welsh outfit have arguably been the team of the Heineken Cup this season, and they continue to overshadow The Ospreys as the most successful welsh region.

This game has the makings of a classic, with Leicester also performing impressively over the last month or so. They go into the game as slight underdogs, and the Millennium Stadium is by no means a welcoming venue for an English side.

My money is on Cardiff (1.79 on Betfair) to make it an all-Magners League final, and just to ensure that half of the Lions touring party are playing a huge fixture the day before they leave!

Have a great weekend and enjoy the games.

6 thoughts on “Heineken Cup semi-final previews

  1. Croke Park won’t be a neutral venue come Sunday, Munster supporters will outnumber the Leinster support be some way. Leinster are even threatening their clubs that they will have their international tickets withdrawn if supporters wearing red shirts are seen in their seats.

    I can’t seem anything but a Munster win it would be a huge upset if anything else happened. As for the other game, the Blues must be slight favourite, however Leicester will be quietly confident. Should be a great game.

  2. I have a bet with some stupid Brit who has come all the way over to New York called Jonno Rose (I believe you guys at the rugby blog are familiar with him) that Cardiff Blues will beat the Tigers………
    Im glad to see that the rugby blog agrees.
    PS Exeter Chiefs to beat Bristol to league 1 next season

  3. Leinster vs Munster should be a great match, Muster are obvious favourites going inot the match but when the sides last met in the Heineken cup leinster were slight favourites going into the match and ended up being beaten emphatically by a stronger munster side.

    So anything could happen, but in my opinion i can see munster just edging it. The teams have probably in my opinion got the two best back rows in Europe, and im looking forward to seeing the matchup between the young and dynamic Keith Earls and the expierenced and talented Brian O Driscoll.

    Both teams have some of the best rugby players in the world. And if you look at both teams quarter finals they were two completely different performances, we seen Munsters great free flowing attack and creativity and compare that to Leinsters tough inch for inch battle in their quarter final.

    So who will win today the favourites Munster or a Leinster team that a more than cappable of causing an upset. Whatever happens today one thing I am sure of is that today will be one of the greatest days in Irish rugby history.

  4. Well Munster got it handed to them and nothing is healthier for a tournament than upsets, so as a neutral I was happy as hell.

    People will say that this is an omen for the Lions, that the Munster men are overrated and P O’Connell was found wanting; total rubbish, Munster are still a great team, on the day Leinster were superb and deserved their win but that doesn’t detract or denigrate Munster’s achievements. As for O’Connell he was one of the best players on the park, steeling lineouts, carrying ball and making tackles, he was a giant.

    In fact this match was nothing but good news for the Lions, firstly Heaslip made the N8 shirt his with an outstanding performance, this was previously a problem position but Heaslip stepped up today and did it all, good control at the back of the scrum, carried well, took lineouts and mostly he showed he could turnover ball; the breakdown is what the lions will target on tour.

    While we are on the subject of the breakdown, Leinster demonstrated how you can win a game even though your lineout is obliterated, as SA have the best lineout in the world we might very well loose a few. This game also showed that with so many turnovers occurring due to the protocols at the breakdown, Geech is right to take so many breakdown specialists.

    looks like an all Irish backrow but hey Martyn Williams is playing tomorrow so who knows.

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