CHAMPIONS CUP PREVIEW: This weekend sees Leinster take on Saracens in the Champions Cup Final. Leinster are looking to retain their title whilst Saracens are aiming to knock the current champions off their pedestal.
It all takes place in the home of Newcastle United Football Club, St James’ Park. When the venue was first announced it confused a few diehard fans as to why it was selected, but if you look a bit deeper, it makes a lot of sense. The north of England would probably not be known for its huge love of Rugby Union as it’s a region that sways more on the side of the League format of the game, so what better way to promote the sport then to host the final of Europe’s biggest club competition there.
BATTLE AT NO.10
The two sides have only met 3 times before with the Irish team getting the better of their opponents on all 3 occasions. This will be a positive statistic for Leo Cullen and his team as they look to add a fifth gold star to their jersey next year. On the flip side, Saracens will see this as just greater motivation to win, and with a lot of England internationals on their roster, including the country’s starting captain Owen Farrell, they are probably in the best position to make life hard for Leinster. Yet just like Saracens, Leinster boast a star studded line up with World Rugby’s Player of the Year Johnny Sexton at 10.
There is no doubt that these two players will play massive parts in the outcome of the final, but they won’t be able to do it alone. In the pack, Saracens have hard hitters Mako Vunipola & Maro Itoje in the front and second rows respectively, two players who have been consistently good for both club and country. In the back field, they boast Welsh superstar Liam Williams, who just missed out on Player of the Six Nations. Williams scored three tries for Wales in this year’s Six Nations but that doesn’t begin to emulate the influence he had on his country’s Grand Slam success.
Equally, Leinster possess some big guns in their side with the likes of Tadgh Furlong at prop and Scott Fardy in the back row of the pack. Fardy this season has been an outstanding servant for Leinster, in what is only his second year with the team, almost making him impossible to leave out of any big game that has come the way of the men in blue this year. In midfield, Robbie Henshaw seems to have found some form again after a rather abysmal start against England in the Six Nations and then quite a lengthy stint on the sidelines with injury. Henshaw and Ringrose make up a rather exciting partnership, arguably the best since the days of Brian O’Driscoll and Gordon Darcy. Ringrose showed some steely determination in the Semi Final, cutting through the opposition’s line and making some huge gains. Leinster fans will be hoping he can do the same this week.
It is ultimately hard to pick between these two teams when it comes to who will collect the silverware, but if Leinster can get off to a quick start and secure the first score, it might just tip the scales in their favour. Although we saw with Saracens against Munster in the Semi’s how they look to get the front foot early with quick hands in attack, and some gigantic hits in defence. If they get to play the game their way they may just hold Leinster off.
Either way, it is sure to be the ultimate clash of the titans in terms of European Club rugby.
LAY Saracens at 2.08 http://bit.ly/BDQSARLEI
Josh Graves, BETDAQ
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