European Champions Cup teams named for penultimate round

European heavyweights Munster, Saraces, Clermont and Leinster have named their teams for this weekend's European Rugby Champions Cup semi-final that seperates them from the grand finale at BT Murrayfield Stadium next month (Saturday 13 May).

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Munster v Saracens

Saturday, 22 April, Aviva Stadium (kick-off 3.15pm)

Munster will kick-off the penultimate round when they welcome holders Saracens to the Aviva Stadium in Dublin in a fortnight's time (Saturday 22 April).

It will be irishmen's 12th European Cup semi-final, the most of any club in the tournament’s history, while Saracens have reach the last four four for the sixth time, and the fifth season in a row (equalling their opponent's tournament record between 2000 and 2004).

CJ Stander has overcome the ankle injury sustained against Toulouse in the quarter-final to be named in the starting XV and is one of five changes to the side that defeated Ulster in the Guinness PRO12 last weekend in Thomond Park.

The Ireland international, recently named in his first Lions squad, is the only change to the pack as he joins Lions’ colleague Peter O’Mahony and Tommy O’Donnell in the back-row.

An unchanged front five sees Dave Kilcoyne, Niall Scannell and John Ryan scrum down in the front row while the squad’s most capped duo of Donnacha Ryan and Billy Holland continue their second row partnership.

With late changes to the side last weekend, the half-back pairing of Duncan Williams and Tyler Bleyendaal return to start for Saturday’s encounter.

Centre Jaco Taute also makes a return as he resumes his European midfield partnership with Rory Scannell who has been deemed fit to play after a knock to his ankle last weekend.

The final change comes by way of winger Andrew Conway who joins Keith Earls and Simon Zebo in the back three. Named in the replacements is Jean Deysel who will make his Champions Cup debut if sprung from the bench.

Saracens travel to Ireland rich in form with wing Chris Ashton needing just one try to become the outright top try scorer in European Cup history (currently level with Vincent Clerc on 36).

All six of Saracens’ Lions named earlier this week feature in their starting XV. Loosehead prop Mako Vunipola is joined by Jamie George in the Saracens front row – they are joined by Springbok international tighthead Vincent Koch, whilst Maro Itoje and George Kruis are named at lock-forward.

Billy Vunipola starts at number 8 alongside a back-row duo of Michael Rhodes (blindside) and Jackson Wray (openside).

Scrum-half Richard Wigglesworth partners Owen Farrell at half-back while, at centre, Brad Barritt captains the side alongside Marcelo Bosch, with the Argentine midfielder making his 50th appearance in the competition.

In the back-three, Sean Maitland, Chris Ashton and Alex Goode all start.

Munster Rugby: Simon Zebo; Andrew Conway, Jaco Taute, Rory Scannell, Keith Earls; Tyler Bleyendaal, Duncan Williams; Dave Kilcoyne, Niall Scannell, John Ryan, Donnacha Ryan, Billy Holland, Peter O'Mahony (c), Tommy O'Donnell, CJ Stander. Substitutes: Rhys Marshall, James Cronin, Stephen Archer, Dave O'Callaghan, Jean Deysel, Ian Keatley, Francis Saili, Darren Sweetnam.

Saracens: Alex Goode; Chris Ashton, Marcelo Bosch, Brad Barritt (c), Sean Maitland; Owen Farrell, Richard Wigglesworth; Mako Vunipola, Jamie George, Vincent Koch, Maro Itoje, George Kruis, Michael Rhodes, Jackson Wray, Billy Vunipola. Substitutes: Schalk Brits, Titi Lamositele, Petrus du Plessis, Jim Hamilton, Schalk Burger, Ben Spencer, Alex Lozowski, Chris Wyles.

ASM Clermont Auvergne v Leinster

Sunday 23 April, Matmut Stadium de Gerland (kick-off 3pm BST)

The following day ASM Clermont Auvergne host Leinster Rugby at the Matmut Stadium de Gerland (Sunday 23 April, kick-off 4pm) in what will be Leinster’s ninth appearance in the semi-finals. Only fellow semi-finalist Munster (12, including this season) and Toulouse (10) have reached the last four more.

There is one injury enforced absence for Leinster with Seán O’Brien ruled out with tightness in his hamstring. Otherwise it is a very similar XV that accounted for Wasps in the Quarter-Final three weeks ago.

The Dubliner's cult figure, Isa Nacewa, captains the side on the occasion of his 50th European cap for Leinster from the left wing, with Fergus McFadden coming into the side on the right wing for his 150th Leinster appearance.

Joey Carbery is again selected in the full back jersey. In the centre Robbie Henshaw and Garry Ringrose renew their partnership with Luke McGrath and Johnny Sexton in the half backs.

The front row is again the all Irish international trio of Jack McGrath, Richardt Strauss and Tadhg Furlong. In the second row Devin Toner and Hayden Triggs continue their partnership.

Finally in the back row Rhys Ruddock comes in at blind side flanker, with Dan Leavy moving across to the open side and Jack Conan continuing at number eight.

The Clermont XV that defeated Toulon in the quarter-final returns weeks later with the exception of David Strettle, who replaces Noa Nakaitaci.

The "yellow and blue" pack will be the exact copy of the one that imposed themselves on RCT in the quarter-final. Franck Azéma returns to the group Alexandre Lapandry and Paul Jedrasiak both very fit in recent weeks. On the rear side, David Strettle is the only change.

On the bench, however, the Frenchmen welcome the return of Paul Jedrasiak and Alexandre Lapandry.

ASM Clermont Auvergne: Scott Spedding; David Strettle, Aurélien Rougerie, Remi Lamerat, Nick Abendanon; Camille Lopez, Morgan Parra; Raphael Chaume, Benjamin Kayser, Davit Zirakashvili, Arthur Iturria, Sébastien Vahaamahina, Damien Chouly (c), Peceli Yato, Fritz Lee. Substitutes: John Ulugia, Etienne Falgoux, Aaron Jarvis, Paul Jedrasiak, Alexandre Lapandry, Ludovic Radosavljevic , Pato Fernandez, Damien Penaud.

Leinster Rugby: Joey Carbery; Fergus McFadden, Garry Ringrose, Robbie Henshaw, Isa Nacewa (c); Johnny Sexton, Luke McGrath; Jack McGrath, Richardt Strauss, Tadhg Furlong, Devin Toner, Hayden Triggs, Rhys Ruddock, Dan Leavy, Jack Conan. Substitutes: Sean Cronin, Peter Dooley, Michael Bent, Ross Molony, Josh van der Flier, Jamison Gibson-Park, Ross Byrne, Zane Kirchner.