La Rochelle earned a convincing 32-23 victory over Leinster at Stade Marcel Deflandre to reach their first European Champions Cup final.

The French side, who had never previously made it as far as the last four, will now face fellow Top 14 club Toulouse at Twickenham on May 22.

Leinster have won the competition on four previous occasions and started Sunday's contest brightly through Tadhg Furlong's eighth-minute try.

The hosts were a man short at that point after Wiaan Liebenberg was sin-binned for an offside infringement, but they hit back thanks to a penalty and drop goal from Ihaia West.

West was successful from a couple more kicks before half-time, but only after Ross Byrne had added six points from the boot for Leinster in a tightly-contested opening period that ended with the visitors ahead by one.

That kicking battle ensued in the early stages of the second period when Byrne responded to West edging La Rochelle in front for the first time in the contest.

Leinster were a point to the good at that point but lost James Lowe to a yellow card for not rolling away in what proved to be a pivotal moment in an entertaining clash.

West split the sticks once more to restore his side's advantage and Gregory Alldritt found a way over the line 15 minutes from time, which West inevitably added to with the extras.

La Rochelle pushed for another try to seal the win and they found it as Will Skelton broke away from the driving maul to start the celebrations.

Byrne had the final say in terms of the scoring by finding a gap and dotting down late on, but La Rochelle comfortably held on to set up an all-French final at Twickenham.

Toulouse booked their place in the European Champions Cup final for the first time since 2010 as they defeated Bordeaux-Begles 21-9 on Saturday.

Romain Ntamack tallied up 11 points with the boot as fellow France star Antoine Dupont crossed for hosts Toulouse's second try of the game late on.

Matthieu Jalibert kicked Bordeaux ahead with a penalty early on, though Matthis Lebel swiftly went over to put four-time winners Toulouse in front – a try teed up by Dupont and Ntamack.

Another Jalibert three-pointer had Bordeaux back ahead, but they then had to withstand 10 minutes being down to 14 men after Cameron Woki was sin-binned.

Yet having seen off the onslaught, Bordeaux succumbed before the break, with Ntamack nudging a penalty through the sticks.

More ill-discipline from Bordeaux enabled Ntamack to nose Toulouse firmly into the driving seat following the restart, though a third penalty from Jalibert brought Bordeaux back to within five points.

Yet Bordeaux's hopes were dashed when Dupont raced through to secure Toulouse's seventh appearance in a Champions Cup final.

The showdown will be played at Twickenham on May 22, potentially in front of a crowd of up to 10,000 spectators. Leinster and La Rochelle face off in the second semi-final on Sunday.

Toni Pulu was red-carded against his former team as defending champions the Brumbies beat the Western Force 21-9 to set up a Super Rugby AU final against the Reds.

The semi-final at GIO Stadium on Saturday was well poised with the holders 7-3 up when wing Pulu was dismissed for a dangerous tackle on Len Ikitau.

Pulu could have no complaints, having caught Ikitau in the face with his shoulder, and his early exit in the closing stages of the first half proved to be costly.

Domingo Miotti's penalty put the Force in front, but Tom Wright crossed in the corner soon after at the other end for a try converted by Noah Lolesio.

Tom Banks then finished on the stroke of half-time to rub salt into the Force's wounds after Pulu's departure.

Fly-half Miotti reduced the deficit to 12-6 when he was on target from the tee early in the second half, but Lolesio booted the Brumbies back into a nine-point lead.

Wright had what he thought was his second try ruled out after a replay showed his foot was in touch in-goal as he touched down, but two penalties from Ryan Lonergan gave the Brumbies breathing space.

Dan McKellar's side will face the Reds in the final at Suncorp Stadium next Saturday.

The Hurricanes ran in six tries to end a disappointing Super Rugby Aotearoa campaign on a high with a thumping 41-22 win against the Highlanders.

Already certain to finish at the foot of the five-team pool, the Hurricanes at least gave themselves something to build upon ahead of the approaching Super Rugby Trans-Tasman campaign.

They trailed their second-bottom visitors 17-15 at half-time, with Devan Flanders and Dane Coles going over for the Hurricanes as the Highlanders responded through Josh Dickson and Jona Nareki.

The tone was set for the second-half Hurricanes dominance when Ngani Laumape dotted down almost immediately after the restart, and Du'Plessis Kirifi raced through soon afterwards for another score.

Ash Dixon dragged the Highlanders back into it by ploughing through a gap in the Hurricanes defence, but Brayden Iose and Salesi Rayasi left no doubt with tries in the closing 10 minutes, earning a second win in eight games.

Twickenham will host the European Champions Cup and Challenge Cup finals, with up to 10,000 fans in attendance at each.

The iconic London venue was chosen to stage the two showpiece contests after coronavirus restrictions meant Marseille was ruled out of hosting duties.

European Professional Club Rugby (EPCR) and the Rugby Football Union released a joint statement confirming the news on Friday.

The Challenge Cup final will take place on 21 May, with the Champions Cup showdown the following day, and thousands of supporters will be welcomed to both.

"Fans are the lifeblood of European club tournaments and we are delighted to be able to welcome them back in a COVID-secure environment for this season's finals," said EPCR CEO Vincent Gaillard.

"Twickenham has a storied history with club rugby's greatest tournament, and it will be a fitting venue to see silverware contested next month."

The identity of the four finalists will be known after the coming weekend, with Toulouse facing Bordeaux Begles and La Rochelle meeting Leinster in the premier continental knockout tournament, while there is a possibility of an all-English final in the Challenge Cup as Leicester Tigers take on Ulster and Bath tackle Montpellier.

English rugby and cricket will follow football in a social media boycott aimed at combatting the ongoing problem of online abuse.

Last Sunday, it was announced that teams from the top men's and women's leagues in England would not post to their social media accounts from Friday until next Monday, with players expected to follow suit.

A joint statement from governing bodies including the FA, the Premier League, the Women's Super League and the Professional Footballers' Association (PFA), confirmed the action was aimed at demonstrating "that the game is willing to take voluntary and proactive steps in this continued fight".

On Wednesday, the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) confirmed all 18 first-class county sides, as well as regional women's teams and the Professional Cricketers' Association (PCA) "will stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the football community" by taking part in the blackout.

PCA chief executive Rob Lynch said: "Social media companies have to do more. Our members are often victims of horrific online abuse with little or no punishment for the perpetrators and this has to change.

"A unified silence from players and the wider game is a powerful stance to show that our members will not allow social media companies, which have brought so much benefit to the game, to continue to ignore and fail to prioritise the need for appropriate legislation in protecting people against online discriminatory behaviour."

On Thursday, England Rugby announced that all social media channels run by the Rugby Football Union (RFU) would also join the boycott, along with leading clubs.

Sarah Hunter, who this month captained England to a third successive Women's Six Nations title, said: "No professional sportsperson should have to suffer abuse, racism or harassment on social media.

"We've all seen how social media can help bring fans and players closer together but this does not mean abuse should be ignored.

"While we have an important Test match in France on Friday, we understand there are bigger and more important issues and hopefully this is an important statement that online hate will not be tolerated."

New Zealand Rugby (NZR) has approved a revolutionary deal which will see US investment firm Silver Lake take a 12.5 per cent stake in the game's commercial rights including the All Blacks.

The proposal was voted for unanimously by New Zealand's 26 provincial unions and the New Zealand Maori Rugby Board (NZMRB) although it still needs sign off from the New Zealand Rugby Players' Association (NZRPA).

The private equity deal would see Silver Lake inject $NZ387.5 million into NZR, coming after the governing body recorded an operating loss of $NZ18.7m at its Annual General Meeting in Wellington on Thursday.

The controversial deal has been mooted for some time and takes the game a step closer to the All Blacks becoming a non-wholly publicly-owned entity for the first time.

NZR Chair Brent Impey said: “We are thrilled that our Provincial Unions [and] the Māori Rugby Board have recognised the importance of private equity in driving commercial revenue and enabling investment to ensure rugby thrives and survives into the future.

"Today’s vote for Silver Lake represents a transformational opportunity for our game and one we must grasp.”

Ongoing discussions with the NZRPA will be critical to establishing the terms of the deal, although Impey was disappointed they had not yet given their consent.

“Through swift action, good governance and hard work of our people we are fortunate to be one of the best placed national unions in the world," he said.

"However, we are at a critical juncture and need our players’ support if we are to make the most of the opportunity in front of us.

“The game has to change, and Silver Lake’s capital injection would allow us to re-imagine rugby and invest in the areas of the community game that need it most, particularly teenage and women’s rugby, and to create better and more engaging experiences for our fans.

"We hope the NZRPA will realise the significance of the opportunity in front of us and will continue to work toward an agreement in coming weeks."

New Zealand's Sports Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Grant Robertson also weighed in on the matter, calling for the NZRPA to come to the table for talks.

"New Zealand Rugby has been working hard on it, trying to establish what it believes is a more secure financial base for the sport," Robertson said.

"Some of the details that are now emerging show the provincial unions will be getting some slice of the extra money that might be coming in, but other details are still a little bit unclear.

"Obviously on the other side of the equation you've got the Rugby Players' Association who are concerned about both the salaries that the players get but also some other issues like protection of cultural icons such as the haka."

George North will miss the British and Irish Lions tour of South Africa after suffering a serious knee injury.

The versatile Wales back on Wednesday confirmed he sustained a ruptured anterior cruciate ligament in the Ospreys' Pro14 Rainbow Cup win over Cardiff Blues on Saturday.

North will undergo surgery next week and could be out for up to nine months, ruling him out of contention for what could have been his third Lions tour.

The 29-year-old tweeted: "Sport can be cruel. We all know the risks when we take the field.

"Unfortunately I ruptured my ACL on Saturday and will need surgery next week. Heartbroken is an understatement."

The Crusaders will host the 2021 Super Rugby Aotaeroa final against the Chiefs after returning to winning ways with a 29-6 victory over the Blues on Sunday in Christchurch.

The 2020 Super Rugby Aotaeroa champions scored four tries to the Blues' none, with two from Will Jordan including a fine solo run to open the scoring in the seventh minute.

Sevu Reece and Codie Taylor also crossed for the Canterbury side who led 12-0 at the interval and never looked back.

Taylor remains the leading try scorer this season, getting his seventh of 2021 on the hour when the Crusaders maul forced their way over following a line-out.

The result also means that the Blues can no longer mathematically make for the top two thus will not feature in the decider despite having a game in hand against the Chiefs in Round 10, having collected no points on Sunday.

The Blues have lost four of their past five matches, fading from contention after a promising 2-0 start.

The Crusaders had gone down 26-25 to the Chiefs in Round Eight, putting at jeopardy their hopes of hosting the Final but Sunday's result ended any doubts.

Scott Robertson's side have been top of the table since Round Two, having started the 2021 season with five straight wins.

The Waratahs failed to avoid the ignominy of a winless Super Rugby AU campaign as they fell to a 36-25 loss to the Rebels.

A miserable 0-8 record was confirmed on Saturday as the Tahs were beaten by the Australian conference's second-bottom side, despite the Rebels having two men sent off in Sydney.

It took just 33 seconds for the hosts to get that sinking feeling as Stacey Ili touched down after collecting Matt Toomua's precise cross-field kick.

To their credit, the Tahs promptly hit back with a pair of Ben Donaldson penalties to suggest a close contest may be on the cards.

Even after Michael Wells' converted try restored some comfort for the Rebels, the dismissal of Isi Naisarani for a high tackle handed the home side fresh impetus.

Mark Nawaqanitawase and Jack Maddocks both dotted down to capitalise, with the Rebels clinging to a 21-18 half-time lead after a brace of Toomua three-pointers.

The visitors made light of their numerical disadvantage, Rob Leota diving over off the back of a maul, although Carlo Tizzano was quick to respond with a try of his own.

That proved to be the Tahs' last score, though, and the Rebels added gloss through Toomua's penalty and a late Matt Gibbon try.

There was still time for Pone Fa'amausili to see red for a driving his shoulder into the head of Max Douglas, but the 13 men saw out the remainder of the game without further incident.

Damian McKenzie landed a penalty after the final siren sounded to secure the Chiefs a thrilling 26-24 win over the Hurricanes on Friday.

Full-back McKenzie was on target with the match-winning kick in the 83rd minute of a see-saw Super Rugby Aotearoa clash that seemed set to yield an upset result.

Asafo Aumua's 68th-minute try, which was converted by Jordie Barrett, had the struggling Hurricanes on course for just their second victory of the 2021 season.

James Blackwell and Billy Proctor also touched down for the visitors - the former doing so in the opening minute of proceedings - as the team stuck at the bottom of the standings gave their second-placed opponents a serious scare.

Chiefs managed two tries themselves through Pita-Gus Sowakula and Bryn Gatland, but it was McKenzie's trusty boot that proved crucial in deciding the outcome.

The New Zealand international landed both conversion attempts as well as four penalties, the last of which dashed Hurricanes' hopes in dramatic fashion.

Domingo Miotti was the hero for Western Force as the Waratahs were denied a first win of the Super Rugby Australia season, with the home side snatching a 31-30 success.

Miotti converted Jordan Olowofela's try in the closing stages, but it still appeared the excellent kicking of Ben Donaldson – making his first start – would be enough to guide the Waratahs to victory.

Yet presented with a line-out and the opportunity to kick the ball into touch to mark full time, the Waratahs turned the ball over, giving the Force one last chance.

It was an opportunity they seized on, with 20 phases of play resulting in a penalty which Miotti sent through the posts and completed the turnaround for the Force, who were 30-21 down with 10 minutes remaining.

While the Waratahs stay bottom on three points, the Force are in third place, three points ahead of the Rebels in the hunt for a semi-final play-off.

Damian McKenzie scored a last-gasp penalty as the Chiefs came from behind to edge out the Crusaders 26-25 and move second in Super Rugby Aotearoa.

McKenzie was on supreme form with the boot throughout Saturday's contest in Hamilton, and he proved decisive from 35 metres with three minutes remaining.

It was a different story for Richie Mo'unga, who missed what should have been an easy conversion from a Codie Taylor try early in the second half.

Mo'unga's mistake enabled the Chiefs to capitalise – Jonah Lowe crossing over in the corner to set the stage for McKenzie's winning penalty.

Lachlan Boshier also went over for the hosts, with McKenzie having kicked all nine of their points in the first half. 

Tries from Leicester Fainga'anuku and Will Jordan had propelled the top-of-the-table Crusaders to a 17-9 half-time lead, but indiscipline in the closing stages cost them. With four straight wins under their belts, the Chiefs are second on 16 points, ahead of the Blues and the Highlanders.

Welsh rugby great John Dawes, who captained the British Lions on their victorious 1971 tour of New Zealand, has died at the age of 80.

Dawes, who also skippered and later coached Wales with great distinction, was remembered by his former international team-mate Gareth Edwards as "one of the giant figures" in the history of their national team.

His death was announced by Newbridge, Dawes' first club, who reported he had experienced "a period of ill health".

Dawes, a centre, won his first Wales cap against Ireland in 1964 and helped the team to Triple Crown successes in 1965 and 1969 prior to captaining his country to a Five Nations Grand Slam in 1971.

A Dawes-skippered Lions squad landed a 2-1 success against the All Blacks in the same year, with the fourth match in the series drawn.

That is the only time New Zealand have lost a series against the touring Lions, whom they beat 3-1 six years later, by which time Dawes was head coach.

Dawes coached a great Wales team from 1974 to 1979, helping them win the Five Nations championship four times in six years, landing four Triple Crowns in the same period and Grand Slams in 1976 and 1978.

He became president of London Welsh, who said his death was "a seismic loss" for all of rugby.

Fellow Welsh legend Edwards featured alongside Dawes in the Barbarians side that famously beat New Zealand 23-11 in Cardiff in 1973, when Edwards scored what many regard as one of rugby's greatest ever tries.

"I can still hear Cliff Morgan in commentary say, 'Dawes, great dummy'," Edwards said. "That moment encapsulated John as he helped to set up a score that has never been forgotten.

"John was a fantastic captain and a great coach. He is one of the giant figures of Welsh rugby of any era."

In his tribute posted on the Welsh Rugby Union website, Edwards added: "John was always calmness personified on the field amid the chaos of international rugby. People don't understand how valuable it is to have someone like that on your side, someone who can see the bigger picture and calm everyone down.

"He never went over the top about our success when he was coaching. He would calmly tell us when we gathered for the first time in a season that while we weren't a good team at that moment, by the end of the season we would be a great side."

Alex Hodgman saw red as a depleted Highlanders side dealt a blow to the Blues' Super Rugby Aotearoa Finals hopes with a hard-earned 35-29 victory on Friday.

Hodgman's dismissal came in the final 10 minutes of a close contest in Dunedin, for a wild high tackle on James Lentjes.

The Highlanders captialised, with Michael Collins going over for what was ultimately the winning try – Hoskins Sotutu's late score proving nothing but a consolation.

It was a rollercoaster encounter, with the lead swapped four times in the first half, Josh Ioane tallying up 12 points for the hosts, though his brother Rieko was one of two Blues try scorers in the opening 40 minutes.

Jona Nareki's try and Mitchell Hunt's penalty nosed the Highlanders ahead after the interval, and though Nepo Laulala crossed to apply pressure, Hodgman's red card proved decisive.

Having lost to the Chiefs last time out, the Highlanders are now up to third, one point behind the second-placed Blues.

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