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Rugby News

Preview | Challenge Cup semi-final showdown

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A place in the European Challenge Cup Final awaits the winners of the match-up between Leicester Tigers and Ulster Rugby at Mattioli Woods Welford Road on Friday evening.

European champions in 1999 and finalists in 2012, Ulster only played their first-ever game in the Challenge Cup in the knockout stages this season, while Tigers reached the semi-finals in their debut season last year.

Tigers are bidding to reach a sixth final in Europe, following appearances in the Heineken Cup showpiece in 1997, 2001, ’02, ’07 and ’09.

To reach the final, Ulster will have to win for a third time at the home of a Gallagher Premiership club, following wins at Harlequins and Northampton Saints in the last two rounds.

They have, though, won twice on previous visits to Leicester, and have a 7-3 advantage on win count in terms of previous meetings.

Tigers have not lost a Challenge Cup fixture since the semi-final in Toulon last season, while the club’s only other defeat in the tournament was at Pau during January 2020.

Head coach Steve Borthwick said: “We are up against a really good side, they have been in the Champions Cup, they have been competing at the top-end for several years. It is a great challenge for us. Our supporters would have loved to be in the ground for this one.”

Nemani Nadolo returns to the Tigers backline after scoring two tries from the bench against Northampton Saints last weekend, with George Martin recalled to the forward pack.

Ulster include international second-row Iain Henderson after his return to action in the Rainbow Cup match against Connacht last week.

Ahead of kick-off, the teams will observe a minute’s silence in respect of former Tigers player and broadcaster Bleddyn Jones who died earlier this week.

French official Pascal Guazere is referee for Friday’s game.

There is live coverage on BT Sport. Please note that the BT Match Pass service for home season ticket holders applies only for Gallagher Premiership fixtures and is therefore not available this week.

Although there is a league-wide social media boycott this weekend, there will be full updates on the club’s Matchday Live Service using the Tigers app or the club website. Make sure you’ve downloaded the most recent app update (Apple 2.11.0 or Android 36) to receive all of the latest news and info ahead of every matchday. 

If scores are level at full-time, the match will move into extra-time and a place-kick competition would be used to find a winner if the teams could not be separated after extra-time.

The other Challenge Cup semi-final is an 8.00pm kick-off on Saturday between Bath Rugby and French visitors Montpellier.

Tournament organisers have announced that Twickenham Stadium will host the Challenge Cup Final on Friday, May 21 (8.00pm) and Heineken Champions Cup FInal on Saturday, May 22 (4.45pm) with up to 10,000 spectators able to buy tickets for each game. Both matches are subject to licences being granted by the London Borough of Richmond-upon-Thames. Tickets for the finals are on sale from 5.00pm on Friday, April 30, starting at £45, with details on www.HeinekenChampionsCup.com.