The Champions Cup once again takes centre stage this weekend as ASM Clermont Auvergne take on Leinster the semi-final of the competition in Lyon on Sunday April 3rd.
Going into the match, both sides will know who they will face in the final, with Munster taking on defending champions Saracens on Saturday.
Both Clermont and Leinster are enjoying fine seasons with the French side sitting second in the Top 14 and Leinster topping the Pro 12 standings.
The clash throws up the tantilising proposition of pitting one of the best out-half in world rugby, Jonathan Sexton, against one of the in-form out-halfs at this time, Camille Lopez.
Add to this the presence of France internationals Scott Spedding, Noa Nakaitaci, Wesley Fofana, Aurelien Rougerie and more in the French side and a Leinster side that features five recently named British and Irish Lions, as well as previously capped tourists, and suddenly it becomes clear that the clash on Sunday is one of European titans.
This season, Leinster has been able to showcase and utilise it’s incredible strength and depth, combining experience and youth to become one of the form teams in European rugby this term.
Having dispatched the English Premiership leaders Wasps in the quarter-final, the Dublin based side must now contend with the absence of Internationals Jamie Heaslip and both Kearney brothers for the showdown with Clermont.
The three-time winners of the predecessor to the Champions Cup, Leinster will, in what will be an away fixture, face one of the biggest challenges of the season. Having dispatched the waning Toulon in the quarter-final, Clermont see themselves as next in line as the dominant French side in European rugby.
With either Saracens or Munster awaiting them in the final on May 13th, whichever side emerges victories will face another monumental challenge if they are to secure a fourth or first European title, respectively.
Kick off in the Matmut Stadium de Gerland, Lyon on Sunday is at 3pm.
Gary Brennan, Pundit Arena
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