After reigning champions Saracens were knocked out by Leinster in the quarter finals of the Champions cup last weekend only two English teams are left in Europe, both in the Challenge cup where Gloucester have a home Semi against Newcastle.
Both teams are doing well in The Aviva Premiership and are challenging for a Champions Cup spot next year but it’s undeniable that these two teams are lacking in trophies and this is their best chance to add to their trophy case. Separated by just three points in their league, this match should be a close one. They’ve faced off three times this year and Newcastle have come away with two wins, most recently a one point victory at Kingsholm. If Gloucester were to win, they would be going for a record-equaling third Challenge cup win.
In the other Challenge Cup Semi Pau and Cardiff Blues will face off at Cardiff’s Arms Park.
Both sides have won this competition before, Cardiff in 2010 and Pau in 2000. Pau are on 61 points in the Top 14 sitting in 6th, while Cardiff are 4th in Conference A of the Pro 14. When Cardiff won the Challenge cup in 2010, they played in front of a crowd of almost 49,000 which is the highest attendance a Challenge Cup final has ever seen. Cardiff are stacked full of international players such as Josh Navidi, Gareth Anscome and Gethin Jenkins.
Cardiff v Gloucester final?
The four teams fighting for a chance to be Europe’s elite in the Champions Cup are the Scarlets, Leinster, Munster and Racing 92. Leinster will take on Pro 14 rivals Scarlets in Dublin’s Aviva Stadium while Munster must travel to the Stade Chaban Delmas in Bordeaux.
All four teams have the ability to win. Munster and Racing are flowing with confidence after the Irish team knocked out Toulon in the quarter finals through a dramatic late win, and Racing eliminated French rivals Clermont with a confident display. Munster are two time winners of this trophy and two time runners up while Racing have been runners up once in 2016 but have never won this competition.
The Scarlets are heroes around Wales after blitzing Top 14 leaders La Rochelle. This is their first Champions Cup Semi Final in 11 years. Can they go one better than Cardiff did in ’96 when they came runners up. Leinster are without question in the best form they have been in for years. They look set to top their Conference in the Pro 14 and have stormed into the Semi Finals of this competition, beating the holders in the quarter finals. If anyone can topple Leinster its the Scarlets who are just three points behind them in the Pro 14. This match is more of a final then a semi final and you have to say who ever wins this one will surely carry the tag of favorites in Bilbao. Scarlets beat Leinster in the Final of the Pro 12 last year and the Irish team will be looking for revenge. None of these matches are predictable, but this one look to be the pick of the Semis.
All four matches will be played over the weekend of 20th to 22nd April. A win for both Irish teams would see an all-Irish final but Racing 92 and Scarlets will be looking to spoil the Irish party.