The cream really has come to the top in the European Champions Cup. ‘An unstoppable force vs an immovable object’ sounds like a Marvel Trademark, but look at the two teams that will take to the field at Newcastle in half an hour or so.
Leinster: 15 Rob Kearney, 14 Jordan Larmour, 13 Garry Ringrose, 12 Robbie Henshaw, 11 James Lowe, 10 Johnny Sexton (c), 9 Luke McGrath, 8 Jack Conan, 7 Seán O’Brien, 6 Scott Fardy, 5 James Ryan, 4 Devin Toner, 3 Tadhg Furlong, 2 Seán Cronin, 1 Cian Healy
Replacements: 16 James Tracy, 17 Jack McGrath, 18 Michael Bent, 19 Rhys Ruddock, 20 Max Deegan, 21 Hugh O’Sullivan, 22 Ross Byrne, 23 Rory O’Loughlin
Saracens: 15 Alex Goode, 14 Liam Williams, 13 Alex Lozowski, 12 Brad Barritt (c), 11 Sean Maitland, 10 Owen Farrell, 9 Ben Spencer, 8 Billy Vunipola, 7 Jackson Wray, 6 Maro Itoje, 5 George Kruis, 4 Will Skelton, 3 Titi Lamositele, 2 Jamie George, 1 Mako Vunipola
Replacements: 16 Joe Gray, 17 Richard Barrington, 18 Vincent Koch, 19 Nick Isiekwe, 20 Schalk Burger, 21 Richard Wigglesworth, 22 Nick Tompkins, 23 David Strettle
That’s 14 internationals on each side, 11 Lions, and 13 starting players for the Ireland – England clash between the Six Nations.
The 30-22 win and the subsequent Championship performances since then would give Saracens more encouragement but the way Leinster comfortable powered through Toulouse suggests that the men in Blue have learned some lessons from what happened in March. Saracens, unbeaten in the tournament, overcame what was essentially an away atmosphere in Coventry to get the better of Munster for the second time in three years, using a blanket defence and fierce territorial kicking game.
Leinster can cut loose, but today they’ll most likely revert to ball retention and driving phases.
This has a tight, close quarters contest written all over it and there has to be a better than a one in 20 chance that they draw the game after 80. It took a 78th minute penalty for Leinster to win last season’s final and the handicaps can’t separate them. Perhaps, if there is to be a tight winner, then it might just be Leinster, retraining the title.
1 pt Draw (20/1 Bet365)
1 pt back-to-lay draw (20’s exhanges)
1 pt Any Half-Time Full time result involving a draw (6/1 Paddy Power)
1 pt Leinster to win by 1-12 points (2/1 general)
Already Advised – 12 October
3 pts win Saracens (10/3 Betfred)
2 pts each/way Racing 92 (16/1 Betfred)
1 pt each/way Exeter Chiefs (11/1 Boylesports)