Munster beat Leinster 30-6 in their only previous meeting in the Heineken Cup â00 in the 2006 semi-final at Lansdowne Road. Niall Ronan and Kieran Lewis were both unused Leinster replacements in that game. They both now play for Munster.
There are as many as 18 players from the 30 who started that semi-final three years ago who could lock horns again at Croke Park: Leinster (8) Girvan Dempsey, Shane Horgan, Brian Oâ00Driscoll, Gordon Dâ00Arcy, Felipe Contepomi, Malcolm Oâ00Kelly, Cameron Jowitt and Jamie Heaslip; Munster (10) Ian Dowling, Ronan Oâ00Gara, Peter Stringer, Federico Pucciariello, Jerry Flannery, John Hayes, Donncha Oâ00Callaghan, Paul Oâ00Connell, Denis Leamy, David Wallace.
Both Croke Park and the Millennium Stadium are new Heineken Cup semi-final venues. However, while the Millennium Stadium has staged three Heineken Cup finals, this will be the first tournament match at Croke Park â00 making it the 85th venue to host Heineken Cup action.
Three Munster players â00 Ronan Oâ00Gara, John Hayes and Donncha Oâ00Callaghan â00 have appeared in a record seven semi-finals.
The 2003/2004 semi-finals had the greatest combined attendance of 82,500 when the ties were played at Lansdowne Road (Munster v London Wasps, 48,500) and at Stade Chaban-Delmas in Bordeaux (Toulouse v Biarritz Olympique, 34,000).
That Munster v London Wasps attendance is the tournament record for a semi-final but both Croke Park (82,300) and the Millennium Stadium (74,500) have greater capacities.
Former Scottish referee Jim Fleming â00 now an ERC Board member â00 controlled a record four Heineken Cup semi-finals. Alan Lewis, Alain Rolland (both Ireland) and Chris White (England) have each refereed three tournament semi-finals.
The only semi-final requiring extra time was the 1998 all-French clash between Toulouse and Brive. Toulouse lost that one on a 2-1 try count.
The 26 Heineken Cup semi-finals have been watched by 675,701 fans â00 an average attendance of 25,989.
The highest score in a semi-final has been the 37 points scored by Leicester Tigers against Toulouse in 1997 and the 37 points scored by London Wasps against Munster in 2004.
The biggest winning margin has been 27 points, when Toulouse beat Swansea 30-3 in 1996.
Two clubs have scored five tries in a semi-final, Leicester Tigers against Toulouse (1997) and Wasps against Munster (2004).
Only one of the 26 semi-finals has failed to produce a try â00 Biarritz Olympiqueâ00s 18-9 win over Bath Rugby in San Sebastian in 2006
Munsterâ00s John Hayes, Ronan Oâ00Gara, Peter Stringer and David Wallace are aiming to reach their fifth Heineken Cup final.
Another Irishman, Leicester Tigers full back Geordan Murphy, is hoping to reach his fourth final. Martin Corry, Ben Kay and Lewis Moody (an unused replacement in the victory over Munster in the 2001 final), are also hoping to do the same.
Munster prop John Hayes will become the leading cap holder in the Heineken Cup if he plays against Leinster. He equalled clubmate Anthony Foleyâ00s tournament record of 86 appearances in the quarter-finals and will go on to 87 in the semi-final. Since his Heineken Cup debut for Munster against Petrarca on 19 September, 1998, he has missed only two of Munsterâ00s European matches. They were the first game of the 2001/02 campaign at home to Castres Olympique and the fifth game that season against Harlequins
Munster will join Toulouse on 101 Heineken Cup games played â00 and overtake them if they reach the final.
Croke Park will be the fourth Dublin venue at which Leinster have played in the Heineken Cup. Their first home game in the tournament was at Lansdowne Road against Pontypridd in front of a crowd of 4,000 in December, 1995. They won 23-22. They then met Pau at Donnybrook in the Pool stages of the 1996/97 competition, again in front of a 4,000 crowd. They won that one 25-23. Their first Heineken Cup tie at the RDS was in October, 2005, against Bath, when 13,152 fans saw them lose 25-23.
Munster, Leinster, Leicester Tigers and Cardiff Blues (including Cardiff RFC) have been represented by:
113 players have represented Munster in 100 games
128 players have represented Leinster in 87 games
140 players have represented Cardiff Blues in 82 games
120 players have represented Leicester Tigers in 89 games
Leicester Tigers wing Scott Hamilton is hoping to emulate Rod Kafer by winning a Super Rugby and Heineken Cup medal in consecutive years. Kafer was a Super 12 winner with ACT Brumbies in 2001 and then a Heineken Cup champion with Leicester Tigers in 2002. Hamilton won the Super 14 crown last May with Canterbury Crusaders â00 his third title after a Super 12 victory in 2005 and a Super 14 triumph in 2006.
The only Super 12/14 and Heineken Cup winners to date have been Kafer and Doug Howlett (Super 12 with the Blues in 2005 and Heineken Cup with Munster in 2008).
Munster are the No1 ranked team in Europe and will play Leinster ranked fourth, Leicester Tigers are the No 2 ranked side and face Cardiff Blues ranked eighth
The public allocation of tickets for the Edinburgh 09 Heineken Cup sold-out in January. The two finalists club will share an allocation 15,000 which they will distribute to the fans directly.