PREVIEW: Racing 92 v Munster
CHAMPIONS CUP SPOTLIGHT: Racing 92 flyhalf Dan Carter believes the French club will have to pull "something special" out of the bag if they are to beat Munster on Sunday and reach only their second European Rugby Champions Cup Final.
The All Blacks great has already faced the Irish province this season in Racing's 7-14 loss in Ireland in a Round Two, Pool Four encounter.
The Parisian club got their revenge in the return in Round Five, when they triumphed 34-30 in his absence, but Carter said of Munster on Sky Sports: "They're a class side, well drilled, so we're going to have to pull something special out in the semifinal if we're going to advance into the final."
Test rugby's world record points-scorer would love nothing better than adding a Champions Cup winner's medal to his substantial trophy cabinet, which already includes silverware from two World Cup successes and four Super Rugby triumphs, to name but a few.
The 36-year-old came close two years ago, when Racing succumbed 7-21 to Saracens in Lyon, after he had to leave the pitch on 43 minutes due to injury.
"It's huge - not only for me, but for the team," he said of the semifinal, after helping Racing beat ASM Clermont Auvergne 28-17 at Stade Marcel Michelin on April 1, when he created a decisive try on 63 minutes and was instrumental in a second two minutes later.
"I love having history and doing things that no teams have done before.
"If you look back at Racing 92's history and how rare it is to make a final in Europe, we were lucky enough to do it a couple of years ago, so we'd love to go one step further.
"[But] we realise that we can't look too far ahead. We've got quality opposition in front of us, so we'll enjoy this moment and make sure that we continue to work hard to give ourselves the best chance to make the final."
Altogether Carter has made 16 appearances in the European Cup and scored 104 points. All have been for Racing, apart from the one game he played for Perpignan in 2008, when he kicked 16 points against Leicester Tigers.
Prediction: The clubs have met six times previously with Munster winning four matches (lost two); they clashed earlier this season in the pool stage, with the home side on the day winning each encounter. Munster are participating in their 13th European Cup semifinal, no other club has played in more than 10; seven of their previous 12 matches have been against top 14 opposition. Munster have progressed from just four of their 12 semifinals, losing their last five in a row. Racing 92 meanwhile have reached this stage for just the second time, they defeated Leicester Tigers 19-16 in their only previous semifinal in 2016. Munster have lost just one of their last nine games against Top 14 opposition (won 7, drawn one), and the defeat to Racing in Round Five this season is the only blemish in that run. Munster have averaged the fewest passes (108) but most kicks from hand (29) per game in the competition this season. The two sides have conceded fewer tries than any other team in this season’s tournament - Munster have conceded just nine and Racing 11. Peter O'Mahony has won 43 line-outs (including five steals), more than any other player in the competition. The only two players to make 100+ carries this season will feature on Sunday - Christiaan Stander (105) and Leone Nakarawa (104). Nakarawa has also made the most offloads (19) of any player and beaten the most defenders (22) of any forward. Racing will edge it by five points.
Racing 92: 15 Louis Dupichot, 14 Teddy Thomas, 13 Virimi Vakatawa, 12 Henry Chavancy, 11 Marc Andreu, 10 Pat Lambie, 9 Maxime Machenaud, 8 Yannick Nyanga, 7 Bernard Le Roux, 6 Wenceslas Lauret, 5 Leone Nakarawa, 4 Donnacha Ryan, 3 Cedate Gomes Sa, 2 Camille Chat, 1 Eddy Ben Arous.
Replacements: 16 Dimitri Szarzewski, 17 Vasil Kakovin, 18 Viliamu Afatia, 19 Antonie Claassen, 20 Baptiste Chouzenoux, 21 Teddy Iribaren, 22 Dan Carter, 23 Joe Rokocoko.
Munster: 15 Andrew Conway, 14 Keith Earls, 13 Sam Arnold, 12 Rory Scannell, 11 Alex Wootton, 10 Ian Keatley, 9 Conor Murray, 8 Christiaan Stander, 7 Jack O'Donoghue, 6 Peter O'Mahony, 5 Billy Holland, 4 Jean Kleyn, 3 Stephen Archer, 2 Niall Scannell, 1 Dave Kilcoyne.
Replacements: 16 Rhys Marshall, 17 James Cronin, 18 John Ryan, 19 Gerbrandt Grobler, 20 Robin Copeland, 21 James Hart, 22 JJ Hanrahan, 23. Simon Zebo.
Date: Sunday, April 22
Venue: Stade Chaban-Delmas, Bordeaux
Kick-off: 16.15 (15.15 UK & Ireland time; 14.15 GMT)
Expected weather: It will be warm with a high of 27°C and a low of 13°C with some cloud cover.
Referee: JP Doyle (England)
Assistant referees: Wayne Barnes (England), Luke Pearce (England)
TMO: Graham Hughes (England)