Leicester gave another wonderful performance in thrashing Bristol last week to finish top of the Premiership, the culmination of a string of impressive displays from the Tigers in the last few months. Cardiff claimed the Anglo-Welsh Cup with a dismantling of Gloucester a couple of weeks ago and the Blues will be further buoyed by the presence of six of the Lions squad announced last week.
Alongside the newly announced Lions, there will be a host of world class internationals on both sides, comfortable playing on the highest level in one of the greatest stadiums in the world. We've come to expect nothing less from the Heineken Cup, and this is an awesome awesome game in prospect.
Leicester's strength at the moment comes from a deep squad so that if they lose a couple of key players, even as late as match day, then others just step into the fray seamlessly and slot into place. The best example of this was Sam Vesty's quarter final performance over Bath, when he replaced Toby Flood at short notice. This strength in depth has also seen them branch out more than earlier in the season, and seen them bring real directness alongside some width to devastating effect.
The Tigers will be hoping that a key player for them this season, Aaron Mauger, will be fit for the match in Cardiff, as the New Zealander is looking more and more like the player Leicester hoped he would be.
For the Midlanders, their coach Richard Cockerill absolutely deserves all the plaudits for their recent form and excellent finish to the season - top of the Premiership table and in the Heineken Cup semi final. Following Heynecke Meyer's departure mid season, Cockerill has taken huge leaps as a leader of men and a top class coach. He's enjoyed working beneath world class coaches in the past, and is now putting all the learnings into action in fine style. In a perfect contradiction to the aggression of his on field performances as a player, Cockerill the coach has shown a calmness of manner, and a quality of selection - and he's slowly building a top class northern hemisphere club side.
For me, this semi final could hinge on how Leicester deal with the Kiwi spine evident in Cardiff's team, from captain Paul Tito to Ben Blair at the back, but particularly the focal, talismanic Xavier Rush at number 8. He almost destroyed Gloucester singlehandedly in the Anglo-Welsh final, and can often just run over or through people. His battering and bruising runs so often set up the teams' other stars such as the whippet like Martyn Williams, centres Jamie Roberts and Tom Shanklin, and the devastating finisher Leigh Halfpenny. Rush looks full of real belief, fit, confident and powerful, all words that you could attribute to the Blues as they look to Sunday, and this hasn't always been the case in the past.
To match Rush, I wouldn't be surprised to see Tom Croft stand up and give a Man of the Match performance. It won't necessarily be because he has a point to prove after missing out on Lions selection, more that he has been producing them week in and week out all season. I certainly wouldn't be surprised if he eventually makes it to South Africa and has a huge impact on the Lions series - the door is certainly not shut.
The game is sure to be a tremendous semi final worthy of these two sides in peak form - and whilst my heart says Leicester, I think Cardiff go in as slight favourites.
Will Greenwood is a Heineken ambassador. Heineken, the premium continental bier, have been proud sponsors of the Heineken Cup since its inception in 1995. For more, www.heinekenrugby.co.uk