Monday 20 August 2018

Relentless Leinster can deliver the double

Despite being shorn of their captain John Barclay, the PRO14 champions have bounced back from their Champions Cup heartache to manage their run to the final well. Picture credit: Stephen McCarthy / Sportsfile
Despite being shorn of their captain John Barclay, the PRO14 champions have bounced back from their Champions Cup heartache to manage their run to the final well. Picture credit: Stephen McCarthy / Sportsfile

Rúaidhrí O'Connor

Leinster know that danger lurks when doubles are on the line and they know the danger of a Scarlets side visiting Dublin at this time of the year.

In recent weeks, their march has slowed and they have looked more vulnerable than they have at any time during the campaign, yet they have beaten Racing 92 and Munster and have one last push to go.

If they match the intensity levels they reached when they met the Welsh side in last month's European semi-final, they will win, but matches rarely mirror previous meetings and this final will be a different beast.

Despite being shorn of their captain John Barclay, the PRO14 champions have bounced back from their Champions Cup heartache to manage their run to the final well. Overcoming the Cheetahs and Glasgow has battle-hardened them, while the return of Johnny McNicholl to fitness has bolstered their attack,

They are dangerous, but this Leinster team is a formidable outfit and they will back their breakdown work to deprive the visitors of momentum once again.

After a week off, Dan Leavy will relish the task; while Johnny Sexton and Rob Kearney bring experience to the backline after missing out last week.

Redeployed

Wayne Pivac has redeployed Tadhg Beirne to the back-row in Barclay's absence, while Leigh Halfpenny returns to a potent backline.

With the forecast set for good conditions, Leinster will be looking to get off their line aggressively to cut off Scarlets' supply out wide where they have caused big problems in previous meetings.

Up front, the Blues are the stronger outfit and they will back their set-piece to provide ball for a backline with plenty of threats including the excellent James Lowe.

It's a dangerous fixture, but Leinster have the weapons to deliver a PRO14/Champions Cup double for the first time.

"It's this amazing window for the team to do something very, very special," Leo Cullen said.

"We've had two incredibly tight games the last two weeks, a combined winning margin of four points, and we just need to make sure we're clear in our minds that it's different to the semi-final when we played Scarlets before.

"It's going to take a huge effort."

Verdict: Leinster

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