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Sunny with a moderate breeze and temperature around 14C.
Leinster and La Rochelle (or to use their official name, Ronan O'Gara’s La Rochelle) meet for the very first time with a place in the Heineken Champions Cup final in Twickenham on 22 May up for grabs.
Four-time winners Leinster arrived at this juncture following comfortable pool successes over Montpellier and Northampton, a last-16 walkover victory against Toulon and the impressive 34-22 statement win over reigning champions Exeter at Sandy Park.
Their opponents, meanwhile, beat Edinburgh away in their opening pool game and were awarded a 28-0 result when a Covid-19 outbreak in the Bath camp meant the English side could not travel to France.
Under-raced, certainly in European terms, they may have been coming into a last-16 clash with Northampton but it didn’t show in a 27-16 victory made famous by O’Gara’s post-match interview on BT Sport.
A comprehensive 45-21 win over Sale in the quarter-final raised the profile of the side, currently second in the Top 14, even higher.
Leinster have restocked their ranks following last weekend’s loss to Munster with Leo Cullen able to name 15 Ireland internationals in this starting side.
Among those returning are European Player of the Year nominees Josh van der Flier, Tadhg Furlong, Robbie Henshaw and Hugo Keenan.
O’Gara, who has former Leinster forwards coach Jono Gibbes as his director of rugby, was sweating on the fitness of half-backs Tawera Kerr Barlow and out-half Ihaia West but both are included in his selection.
WHAT THEY SAID:
Ronan O’Gara (La Rochelle): "One must respect the weight of the history that goes with the Bouclier, but beyond the confines of the domestic league, the Champions Cup semi-final against Leinster is probably the biggest game in the club’s history."
Leo Cullen (Leinster): "They’re a well-coached team by two coaches we have a lot of respect for. You can see the progression their team has made over the last couple of seasons."
Leinster: Hugo Keenan; Jordan Larmour, Garry Ringrose, Robbie Henshaw, James Lowe; Ross Byrne, Luke McGrath (capt); Cian Healy, Rónan Kelleher, Tadhg Furlong; Devin Toner, James Ryan; Rhys Ruddock, Josh van der Flier, Jack Conan.
Replacements: James Tracy, Ed Byrne, Andrew Porter, Scott Fardy, Ryan Baird, Rowan Osborne, Ciarán Frawley, Rory O'Loughlin.
La Rochelle: Brice Dulin; Dillyn Leyds, Geoffrey Doumayrou, Levani Botia, Raymond Rhule; Ihaia West, Tawera Kerr Barlow; Reda Wardi, Pierre Bourgarit, Victor Vito, Uini Atonio; Romain Sazy (capt), Will Skelton; Grégory Alldritt, Wiaan Liebenberg
Replacements: Facundo Bosch, Dany Priso, Arthur Joly, Thomas Lavault, Kevin Gourdon, Arthur Retiere, Jules Plisson, Pierre Aguillon.
Referee: Matthew Carley (RFU)
Assistant referees: Andrew Jackson, Wayne Falla
TMO: Ian Tempest