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O’Gara’s La Rochelle boosted by Sexton’s withdrawal

WITH Jonathan Sexton ruled out of next Sunday’s Heineken Cup semi-final against La Rochelle, Leinster will travel to France without their famed talisman. The out-half will be a big loss and La Rochelle’s Ronan O’Gara will be well aware that this is going to be a plus for his charges.
La Rochelle have proved to be one of the shock sides of the competition, but they fully deserved their progress. This will be the first time the sides have met in European competition and it is the home side’s first appearance in the Heineken Champions Cup semi-finals. It is also Bordeaux’s first time to reach the last four in the other semi-final.
Leinster have won 25 of their last 28 completed games in the Heineken Champions Cup, averaging 32 points scored per game across those victories. Six of Leinster’s last seven matches at the semi-final stage of the Heineken Champions Cup have come against French opposition, winning three and losing three of those clashes. La Rochelle have won five of their seven completed home games in the Heineken Champions Cup, including their solitary such game against Irish opposition (41-17 v Ulster, 2017/18). Leinster are on a five game winning run against TOP 14 opposition, their best ever such streak in the Heineken Champions Cup.
Raymond Rhule has scored three tries for La Rochelle in the Heineken Champions Cup this season, he has also successfully caught all 16 kicks that have come his way.
Only two players have made more tackles than Josh van der Flier (48) in the Heineken Champions Cup this season whilst the Leinster flanker has also won four turnovers for his side, only three players have won more. Kevin Gourdon (La Rochelle) has the best average gain (6.3m per carry) of any forward to make more than 15 carries in the Champions Cup this season, with only one forward making more breaks than him (4).
The Toulouse v Bordeaux Begles game is also the first time these two have met in European competition. Toulouse have won six of their last seven clashes with Bordeaux-Bègles in the TOP 14 (L1) and have never lost a home game against them in the competition, winning nine and drawn one. Bordeaux-Bègles have won their last five games in the Heineken Champions Cup, their best run in the competition and as many victories as they’d managed in their 12 games prior to this streak. Toulouse have reached the semi-final stage of the Heineken Champions Cup for the 13th time, only Munster have progressed this far more often (14) while Bordeaux are here for the first time.
Toulouse have a 100% scrum success rate in the Heineken Champions Cup this season, one of five sides to manage this, they’ve won the most scrums (18) of any of those five teams. Bordeaux have been shown five yellow cards in the Heineken Champions Cup this season, more than any other side, their average of 15.5 penalties conceded per game is the most of any side to play more than twice in the competition this season. Antoine Dupont (Toulouse) is the only scrum-half to score multiple (3) tries in the Heineken Champions Cup this season, he has also made the most carries (24) and metres (147) of any scrum-half and beaten more than twice as many defenders (15) as anyone else in his position.
• Guido Petti Pagadizaval has stolen a tournament high four opposition lineouts in the Heineken Champions Cup this season, Bordeaux teammate Cameron Woki is one of four players to have stolen three throws. Santiago Cordero (Bordeaux) is one of three players to score a competition high four tries in the Heineken Champions Cup this season, he has also beaten a team joint-high tally of 11 defenders so far in this campaign. Matthieu Jalibert (Bordeaux) is the top points scorer (63) in the Heineken Champions Cup this season, he has also made the most offloads (10) of any player and ranks third for most carries (41).

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