RugbyChampions Cup

Leinster vs Northampton: Kick-off time, TV details and team news ahead of Champions Cup semi-final

Southside Dublin rail supporters will have to plan transport due to Dart line being closed

What, where and when?

Leinster feature once again in the latter stages of the Champions Cup as they take on Northampton Saints on Saturday. Kick-off at Croke Park is at 5.30pm.

Croke Park?

For the first time since Ireland lost to Scotland in the 2010 Six Nations, GAA headquarters hosts a game of rugby. European semi-finals are held in neutral venues in the home country of the top seed. Leinster qualified from the pool stages ranked higher than Northampton, so they have home country advantage.

Normally in this situation, the province would host the game in the Aviva Stadium, which counts as neutral because it is not the RDS, the province’s true home ground. However, Uefa have control of Lansdowne Road in preparation for the Europa League final in three weeks. Given that background, the GAA has opened up Croke Park.

It is Leinster’s first game at Jones’s Road since 2009 when they beat Munster in another European semi-final. The crowd that day was a world record for a game of club rugby.

Are there tickets?

Nope. Remarkably given Croke Park’s 80,000+ capacity, tickets sold out on the same day they went on sale. A handful of returns went on sale earlier this week but they were quickly snapped up.

How to get there?

Due to major works, the south to north Dublin Dart line will be closed between Grand Canal Dock and Bray. According to, customers are advised to check times before travel for service alterations, and to book Intercity travel in advance, particularly at busiest times, at this website and the Iarnród Éireann app. Bus operators will accept rail tickets to/from affected areas, with significant additional capacity in place on Saturday afternoon/evening on for travel to/from the city centre for Leinster rugby at Croke Park.

There will also be a limited supplementary bus service operating from Bray and Dún Laoghaire stations to Grand Canal Dock before the match and from Grand Canal Dock to Dún Laoghaire and Bray Stations after the Leinster rugby match. Customers are advised that this supplementary bus capacity is limited.

Can I watch?

Yes. RTÉ have continually shown one game per round in this year’s Champions Cup on free-to-air television. Given this game is on Irish soil, the national broadcaster is on duty once again. TNT Sports, the UK-based subscription channel, will also televise the game.

If you’re out and about or away from your TV, The Irish Times live blog will once again be up and running.

Team news

Leinster have made two changes from the side that beat La Rochelle in the quarter-finals, with both coming up front in the pack.

Ross Molony takes over from Jason Jenkins in the secondrow, while Josh van der Flier returns at openside ahead of Will Connors. Caelan Doris will lead the team from number eight.

There’s a boost among the replacements with Jimmy O’Brien named on the bench after recovering from a neck injury. Also among the replacements, Cian Healy is set to become the all-time appearance holder in the history of the Champions Cup. He is currently on 110 appearances, alongside Ronan O’Gara.

James Ryan remains injured and will miss the game after surgery on an arm issue several weeks ago. Virtually all of Leinster’s starting line-up will be well rested this weekend after Leinster gave fringe players and youngsters a run-out during their two-week mini-tour of South Africa.

Northampton also make two changes from their quarter-final win over the Bulls, with England international George Furbank returning at fullback and James Ramm moving to the right wing, with George Hendy switching to the left in place of Ollie Sleightholme.

The other change sees Alex Waller come in at loosehead prop for Emmanuel Iyogun.

LEINSTER: Ciarán Frawley; Jordan Larmour, Robbie Henshaw, Jamie Osborne, James Lowe; Ross Byrne, Jamison Gibson-Park; Andrew Porter, Dan Sheehan, Tadhg Furlong; Ross Molony, Joe McCarthy, Ryan Baird, Josh van der Flier, Caelan Doris (capt).

Replacements: Rónan Kelleher, Cian Healy, Michael Ala’alatoa, Jason Jenkins, Jack Conan, Luke McGrath, Harry Byrne, Jimmy O’Brien.

NORTHAMPTON: George Furbank; James Ramm, Tommy Freeman, Fraser Dingwall, George Hendy; Fin Smith, Alex Mitchell; Alex Waller, Curtis Langdon, Trevor Davison; Alex Moon, Alex Coles; Courtney Lawes (capt), Sam Graham, Juarno Augustus.

Replacements: Sam Matavesi, Emmanuel Iyogun, Elliot Millar Mills, Temo Mayanavanua, Angus Scott-Young, Tom James, Tom Litchfield, Tom Seabrook.

Form book

Northampton are top of the Premiership but lost last time out in a high-scoring thriller to Harlequins, who are also European semi-finalists. They are at this stage of the competition after beating Munster in the last 16 and an understrength Bulls outfit in the quarter-finals. The South African side courted controversy by not picking their frontliners, instead prioritising their United Rugby Championship clash with Munster the following week.

Leinster are coming off back-to-back defeats after their second- and third-string players were humbled in South Africa by the Lions and the Stormers. First-choice players were rested. The province has reached this stage of the competition after victories of Leicester and La Rochelle in the knockout stages.