Last season's Champions Cup finalists Leinster and La Rochelle to clash againJul 13 | 1 min read
We've reached the semi-final stage in the Heineken Champions Cup as teams look to book a place in the May 28 showpiece in Marseille.
Sunday 15 May
Racing 92 vs La Rochelle - 2.30pm, BT Sport 2HD
Racing will be out to take one step closer to ending their Heineken Champions Cup hoodoo when they entertain La Rochelle in an all-French semi-final at La Defence Arena.
The Parisians have reached the final of the competition three times in the last seven years, but have so far failed to claim European rugby's top prize.
All Black World Cup winner Dan Carter could not get the French giants over the line as Saracens won a first Heineken Cup crown back in 2016, before falling at the final hurdle again to Leinster in 2018 and Exeter in 2020.
With the Top 14 giants on the brink of a fourth final in eight years, Racing fly-half Finn Russell says he is "desperate" to do what Carter could not and deliver a maiden European crown.
"We obviously want to win the Top 14 but we’re focussed on the Champions Cup," he said.
"After being in three finals we’re desperate to get across the line."
Russell was back to his brilliant best in the quarter-final win over Sale, crossing for a sensational solo try as Racing scored 17 unanswered points to cruise past the Premiership outfit.
"I’m feeling really good. I had a week off, which was nice, and I’m ready to go for the end of the season," he said.
"In the second half against Sale I was starting to feel more and more confident, with cross-field kicks from my own 22, so I think I’m getting my confidence back."
Individual form aside, Russell believes the test from La Rochelle will require a step up from their hard-fought quarter-final against Sale Sharks.
“It’s probably going to be even harder,” predicted Russell.
“We have already played La Rochelle a few times this year and last year they beat us in the semi-finals of the Top 14. We know them, we will have to prepare well.”
Meanwhile La Rochelle captain Gregory Alldritt has warned Racing 92 that his side are on a mission to avenge last season's Twickenham heartbreak, starting with Sunday’s semi-final in Lens.
The French international and his team-mates are eager to erase the memory of last season’s final loss to Top 14 rivals Toulouse and win their first European title.
“Last year we missed out and we still have a bitter taste in our mouths,” said Alldritt, who played a key role in France's first Six Nations Grand Slam in 12 years.
“We want to get rid of it, so we are more motivated than ever."
Ronan O'Gara's side saw off French league leaders Montpellier to book their place in the last four, as tries from Dany Priso, Victor Vito and Levani Botia plus 16 points from the boot of Ihaia West was enough to seal victory at the Stade Marcel Deflandre.
O'Gara has transformed the fortunes of La Rochelle in his short time on the French Atlantic coast.
Having taken the club to a first Heineken Cup final last season, back-to-back final appearances would underline his status as one of the most highly-rated young coaches in world rugby.