Surprise package Edinburgh are marching through Europe

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European rugby’s premier competition hots up this weekend as the semi-finals of the Heineken Cup take place with Leinster the 11/8 favourites to get their hands on the trophy.

The Irish outfit have won two of the last three tournaments and head into their clash with Clermont Auvergne on a real high after demolishing Cardiff Blues by 31 points at the quarter-final stage.

The current holders are on a 13-match unbeaten streak in the competition but will face a real challenge against the French club with home advantage.

The French champions easily disposed of English hope Saracens in the last round and are looking for a place in their first ever final in this competition.

They will also be eager to wash away the memory of the 29-28 victory Leinster imposed over them at this stage two years ago.

Clermont are going in search of the double along with their maiden Heineken Cup triumph and are aiming to do so in their centenary season, they are priced at 7/4 to be crowned champions.

Saturday’s semi-final sees Ulster take on Edinburgh in a game of the underdog at the Aviva Stadium.

Edinburgh are the first Scottish representative to make it to this stage and are understandably the longshots at 12/1 to win the tournament.

This year’s surprise package stunned Toulouse as they dumped the four-time champions out in a first quarter-final to be held in Scotland.

Their opponents Ulster hold more of a European pedigree having been champions back in 1999, but they have failed to make it to the final since, the Irishmen are 10/3 to recreate the glory of over a decade ago.

The Ulstermen held off the challenger of fellow Irish team Munster to inflict the first Heinken Cup defeat upon their rivals this season and progress to this stage, but they look set to be hampered by injuries with the likes of Chris Henry and Paul Marshall set to sit out.

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Aaron Cox

Aaron has written for a number of top-level publications, including FourFourTwo and the Manchester Evening News. As well as being a fanatical Rochdale AFC fan and blogger, he shares a passion for rugby league and golf.