Wilkinson skippers Toulon against Saracens
April 26, 2013
Clermont Auvergne's Sitiveni Sivivatu celebrates his score against Montpellier in their quarter-final clash earlier this month © Getty Images
The Heineken Cup is down to the final four with Clermont Auvergne set to tackle Munster in Montpellier on Saturday in the first of the weekend's clashes. The attention then switches to Twickenham where Saracens take on French giants Toulon on Sunday. With a place in next month's Dublin finale up for grabs, expect two fiercely-contested matches and ahead of the action, ESPNscrum gives a rundown of all the latest team news.
Clermont Auvergne v MunsterSaturday, Stade de la Mosson, 17.00 (BST)
Clermont powered past Montpellier in the quarter-finals and ran in an impressive five tries against their French rivals. The current leaders of the Top 14, Les Jaunards are the favourites to lift the Heineken Cup silverware and they are clearly keen to finish the season off in style having rolled out their superstars for their latest euro outing.
With Aurelien Rougerie ruled out through injury, Regan King gets the nod in the centres alongside Wesley Fofana. Elsewhere in the backs Lee Byrne takes the fullback jersey with Sitiveni Sivivatu and Napolioni Nalaga on the flanks. Brock James has shaken off an injury to start at fly-half while Morgan Parra takes the No.9 jersey. Gerhard Vosloo, who was superb against Montpellier, misses out so Julien Bardy starts at openside with Julien Bonnaire and Damien Chouly completing their back three.
For Munster, their loyal faithful will hope Paul O'Connell puts in another performance similar to the one he managed against Harlequins in the quarter-finals. He captains as side showing one change from the Quins game with Keith Earls named in the starting line-up in place of Denis Hurley. Doug Howlett and Donncha O'Callaghan miss out due to injury so Billy Holland is named on the bench while John Ryan replaces the injured Stephen Archer. Elsewhere, it is the Munster team you would expect with the likes of Donnacha Ryan, Peter O'Mahony, Conor Murray and Ronan O'Gara all starting.
© Getty Images
Saracens v ToulonSunday, Twickenham, 1500 (BST)
Saracens, who defeated Ulster in the last eight, are also still fighting on two fronts and have secured a home Aviva Premiership semi-final. And they will hope to be in two finals come May with Top 14 big-spenders Toulon lying in their way in the Heineken Cup - in match set to be played in front of a surprisingly small crowd at Twickenham.
Chris Ashton scores against Ulster © Getty Images
With Saracens' superb flanker Will Fraser out injured, Jackson Wray comes into the back-row at blindside and starts alongside Kelly Brown and Ernst Joubert. Steve Borthwick and Alastair Hargreaves are partnered in the second-row while Mako Vunipola, Schalk Brits and Matt Stevens form the front-row. In the backs, Richard Wigglesworth is named at half-back alongside Owen Farrell while David Strettle and Chris Ashton are on the flanks. Brad Barritt and Joel Tomkins are named in the centres with Alex Goode at fullback.
Toulon, who knocked out Leicester in the quarters, have a myriad of stars to pick from for the semi-final and it is testament to their impressive squad that openside Steffon Armitage misses out. Instead, Toulon boss Bernard Laporte has opted for Springbok Danie Rossouw at blindside with Juan Fernandez Martin Lobbe and Chris Masoe in the back-row. Up front, Andrew Sheridan, Sebastien Bruno and Carl Hayman pack down with Nick Kennedy partnering Bakkies Botha in the second-row.
In the backs, Jonny Wilkinson captains the side at No.10 alongside Sebastien Tillous-Borde. Matt Giteau and Mathieu Bastareaud are in the centres with the back three consisting of Alexis Palisson, Delon Armitage and Rudi Wolf.
For Wilkinson, the match could be his last at Twickenham - a place he has enjoyed many successes at over the years. The 33-year-old made 42 appearances for England at Twickenham, winning on 36 occasions, and also played there three times for former club Newcastle.
"What Twickenham has represented has been phenomenal, I have some great memories here," Wilkinson said. "I've enjoyed every second of it and with the guys I've had the opportunity to play with here.
"It's not a case of saying this could be my last match at Twickenham, it's more a case of wanting to make the most of the occasion and give it everything we have. It's a really special place to be. It's unique and playing here isn't something that happens very much."
© Getty Images
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
The Scotland coach enters his first Six Nations with at least one familiar face to look to for inspiration - Ireland's Joe Schmidt. He chats to Tom Hamilton
Italy coach Jacques Brunel spoke to ESPN ahead of his final season as Italy coach and tells of his desire to experiment and evolve
"There's no bull with me, I just tell it straight." Tom Hamilton talks to Warren Gatland in an exclusive interview
With the retirement of Adam Jones, Welsh rugby says goodbye to a great player and one of its biggest personalities too, writes Tom Hamilton