European Challenge Cup - teams and prediction
SEMIFINAL: A first European Challenge Cup Final will be at stake for both Leicester Tigers and Ulster, when they clash on Friday.
Though both sides have lifted the European Cup, neither have reached the Final of the Challenge Cup and will be keen to add a new piece of silverware to their respective collections.
Leicester comes into the game off the back of a commanding 39-15 quarterfinal win over Newcastle Falcons, while Ulster overcame Northampton Saints 35-27 to reach the last four.
The semifinal will be the first Challenge Cup meeting between the two clubs, but their most recent encounter – a Champions Cup pool stage fixture in 2019 – saw Ulster fight back from 13 points down to win 14-13.
There’s no shortage of European pedigree on show this weekend.
In the second semifinal, on Saturday, Challenge Cup winners Bath take on 2016 winners Montpellier at The Recreation Ground, with both sides having battled past stiff opposition to reach the last four.
Bath recovered from a poor start to eventually defeat Zebre 35-27 in the last 16, before grinding out a 26-13 win over London Irish in the opening quarterfinal match.
Montpellier edged out Glasgow Warriors 26-21, before also seeing off Italian opposition, narrowly defeating Benetton Rugby 31-25 in the last eight.
Semifinal teams and predictions!
Leicester Tigers v Ulster
(Welford Road, Leicester – Kick-off: 20.00; 19.00 GMT)
This will be the first Challenge Cup clash between Leicester and Ulster.
However, the sides have met 10 times before in the Champions Cup – Ulster winning seven of those.
The last time Leicester hosted Ulster in European competition, they lost 13-14, having led 13-0 before a second-half fightback from the Pro14 side.
The Tigers had won three of four previous home games against Ulster prior to that loss.
Leicester have won all six of their home games in the Challenge Cup, scoring 5.5 tries per game across those matches and achieving an average winning margin of 24 points.
Ulster have won both their two previous semifinal matches in Europe, on the way to winning the Champions Cup in 1998/99 and also in 2011/12, when they went on to lose to Leinster in the final of the same competition.
@rugby365com: Leicester by six points
Leicester Tigers: 15 Freddie Steward, 14 Guy Porter, 13 Matias Moroni, 12 Matt Scott, 11 Nemani Nadolo, 10 George Ford, 9 Richard Wigglesworth, 8 Jasper Wiese, 7 Hanro Liebenberg, 6 George Martin, 5 Calum Green, 4 Harry Wells, 3 Dan Cole, 2 Tom Youngs (captain), 1 Ellis Genge.
Replacements: 16 Charlie Clare, 17 Luan de Bruin, 18 Joe Heyes, 19 Tomas Lavanini, 20 Cyle Brink, 21 Ben Youngs, 22 Zack Henry, 23 Kini Murimurivalu.
Ulster: 15 Jacob Stockdale, 14 Rob Baloucoune, 13 James Hume, 12 Stuart McCloskey, 11 Ethan McIlroy, 10 Billy Burns, 9 John Cooney, 8 Nick Timoney, 7 Jordi Murphy, 6 Matt Rea, 5 Iain Henderson (captain), 4 Alan O’Connor, 3 Marty Moore, 2 Rob Herring, 1 Eric O’Sullivan.
Replacements: 16 John Andrew, 17 Andy Warwick, 18 Tom O’Toole, 19 Kieran Treadwell, 20 Sean Reidy, 21 Alby Mathewson, 22 Michael Lowry, 23 Will Addison.
Referee: Pascal Gauzère (France)
Assistant referees: Romain Poite (France), Alexandre Ruiz (France)
TMO: Eric Gauzins (France)
Bath v Montpellier
(Recreation Ground, Bath – Kick-off: 20.00; 21.00 French time; 19.00 GMT)
Bath and Montpellier have met twice before in the Challenge Cup, the Premiership side winning both of those clashes in the 2006/07 pool stages.
Since Bath and Montpellier met twice in the 2006/07 Challenge Cup they have also faced off a further four times in the Champions Cup (2011/12 and 2014/15 pool stages), Bath winning three of those four games, including both at home.
This is the seventh time Bath have reached the semifinals of the Challenge Cup, progressing to the final from four of their previous six appearances at this stage of the competition, although they did lose their most recent such fixture (25-28 v Stade Francais, 2016/17).
Montpellier have only once reached the semi-finals of the Challenge Cup, back in 2015/16 when they went on to win the competition eventually.
Montpellier have won four of their last five away games against Premiership opposition in the Challenge Cup, this after losing their initial eight such matches.
@rugby365com: Bath by nine points
Bath: 15 Anthony Watson, 14 Joe Cokanasiga, 13 Jonathan Joseph, 12 Cameron Redpath, 11 Will Muir, 10 Orlando Bailey, 9 Ben Spencer, 8 Zach Mercer, 7 Sam Underhill, 6 Taulupe Faletau, 5 Charlie Ewels (captain), 4 Josh McNally, 3 Will Stuart, 2 Tom Dunn, 1 Juan Schoeman.
Replacements: 16 Jack Walker, 17 Jamie Bhatti, 18 Henry Thomas, 19 Elliott Stooke, 20 Josh Bayliss, 21 Miles Reid, 22 Will Chudley, 23 Max Clark.
Montpellier: 15 Anthony Bouthier, 14 Julien Tisseron, 13 Johan Goosen, 12 Arthur Vincent, 11 Vincent Rattez, 10 Alex Lozowski, 9 Benoit Paillaugue, 8 Alexandre Becognee, 7 Yacouba Camara, 6 Nico Janse van Rensburg, 5 Paul Willemse, 4 Florian Verhaeghe, 3 Mohamed Haouas, 2 Guilhem Guirado (captain), 1 Enzo Forletta.
Replacements: 16 Bismarck Du Plessis, 17 Grégory Fichten, 18 Titi Lamositele, 19 Tyler Duguid, 20 Fulgence Ouedraogo, 21 Cobus Reinach, 22 Handré Pollard, 23 Vincent Martin.
Referee: Andrew Brace
Assistant referees: Frank Murphy, Chris Busby
TMO: Brian MacNeice