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Leinster Set Up Croke Park Semi-Final Against Northampton

Leinster Set Up Croke Park Semi-Final Against Northampton

Leinster winger James Lowe scores his second try, via a cross-field kick, during their Investec Champions Cup quarter-final victory over La Rochelle ©INPHO/Dan Sheridan

Leinster are looking forward to playing at Croke Park for the first time in 15 years, following a high-scoring set of Investec Champions Cup quarter-finals over the weekend.

A brace of tries from James Lowe, coupled with scores from Jamison Gibson-Park, Dan Sheehan, and Ryan Baird, saw Leo Cullen’s men end La Rochelle’s two-year reign as champions at the Aviva Stadium on Saturday.

Their reward for that impressive 40-13 win is a semi-final on home soil against Gallagher Premership leaders Northampton Saints. The match will take place at the 82,300-capacity Croke Park, as the Aviva Stadium is unavailable due to preparations for the UEFA Europa League final.

The semi-final on Saturday, May 4 will have a 5.30pm kick-off, and will see Leinster play at the home of the GAA for the first time since defeating arch rivals Munster in a legendary 2009 Heineken Cup semi-final.

With tournament organisers EPCR releasing ticket details later this week, Leinster head coach Cullen said: “We have a three-week lead in to the semi-final and it would be amazing to get a big crowd in Croke Park, because you couldn’t take that for granted.

“There’s a lot competition for attention, as we know. but we’re so appreciative of the people that were there. It means a hell of a lot to the team. Hopefully that stays strong and the crowd, but that’s a few weeks away.

“It (Croke Park) hasn’t been talked about a lot, and that’s honest to God. Even in the dressing room after the game we didn’t talk about it.

“The odd question here and there over the last while, ‘is this a chance’, and I know a lot of positive work has gone on to get this game on there. But you have to get to the game first. You can’t get too far in front.

“For the group of players, it’s amazing to get that opportunity to do it (play there) because it’s such an iconic venue in Irish society, not just sport.

“So it’s an amazing opportunity for this group, but we have a trip to South Africa next week to get excited by, and then we’ll start making a plan for that semi-final, where it is.”

Out-half and player-of-the-match Ross Byrne, who kicked 15 points against Ronan O’Gara’s side, commented: “It’s pretty special. Hopefully we can get an incredible crowd (at Croke Park) and hopefully it’s another special day.

“We obviously haven’t had success in the last few years. But we’ve gained a huge amount of experience as a group and obviously lads have gained huge experience in international rugby, so we’re trying to tap into that as best we can.

“There’s a number of leaders across the team, it’s just important we’re getting everyone to chip in and it probably showed.”

Cullen captained Leinster when they ran out 25-6 winners over Munster at the world famous Jones’ Road venue. Cian Healy is the only member of the current squad who played in the 2009 game, while contact skills coach Sean O’Brien was involved back then as a replacement.

The weekend’s quarter-final matches threw up some incredible results, with Harlequins securing a shock victory at Bordeaux-Bègles, Leinster beating La Rochelle for the second time this season, Northampton defeating the Vodacom Bulls, and Toulouse rolling over Exeter chiefs in the highest-ever scoring quarter-final (64-26).

All four teams are now just 80 minutes away from securing a spot in the Champions Cup final, which will be held at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium on Saturday, May 25 (kick-off 2.45pm). Ticket details are available here.


LEINSTER v Northampton Saints, Croke Park, Saturday, May 4, 5.30pm (live RTÉ/TNT Sports/beIN Sports/SuperSport/FloRugby)

Toulouse v Harlequins, Le Stadium, Sunday, May 5, 4pm local time (France TV/beIN Sports/TNT Sports/SuperSport/ITV/FloRugby)