European Champions Cup final preview: Leinster Rugby v Racing 92

Rich Dore
11 May 2018

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After Cardiff Blues go for glory in tonight’s European Challenge Cup final Saturday will see Leinster Rugby shoot for an incredible fourth crown in the Champions Cup.

The Dublin-based province’s three wins in the competition came in that Brian O’Driscoll led golden era, with 2009, 2011 and 2012 the successful campaigns.

In Racing 92, Leo Cullen’s men take on a side who haven’t yet won the Champions Cup, but who were beaten finalists in Lyon in 2016, with Saracens lifting the trophy that year.

The Basque Country has seen plenty of Guinness PRO14 fans descend upon it in recent days, with a sell-out 53,000 attendance in line to take in the showpiece final at the San Mamés Stadium.

If Leinster do prevail in Bilbao they will equal Toulouse’s record of four European Cup crowns and here, we take a look at how the teams are shaping up.

TEAM NEWS

Leinster are boosted by the return from injury of scrum-half Luke McGrath, whilst Isa Nacewa will lead the side out in his final European match for the province.

James Lowe misses out, with Kiwi Jamison Gibson-Park amongst the replacements.

Jordan Larmour takes up a place on the wing, with Rob Kearney at full-back.

Cian Healy, Tadhg Furlong and Sean Cronin make up the front row, in front of locks Devin Toner and James Ryan – Jordi Murphy starts at No.8.

For Racing, the big selection issue appeared to be over Pat Lambie or New Zealand legend Dan Carter at fly-half, but Lambie continues to hold the reins.

Teddy Iribaren replaces injured key man Maxime Machenaud, whilst former Munster man Donnacha Ryan starts at lock and dangerman Teddy Thomas is on the wing.

TALKING POINTS

Leinster’s Dan Leavy: “We were pretty clinical [against Scarlets in the semi-final] but I like to think we have another gear in us.

“We looked at each other in the changing room after the Scarlets match and thought we could go to the next level.

“Racing are a great team and are packed full of big names. The strength in depth is incredible and they have the best defence in the Top 14.

“[Maxime] Machenaud will be a loss for them but they will have someone that is well up to the challenge with the strength in depth they have.

“If we are going to beat them, we will need to find that extra gear.”

KEY STATS

  • With eight wins to date, Leinster could emulate Saracens’ record of nine victories in a Champions Cup-winning season, set in 2015-16.
  • Either Leinster’s Leo Cullen or Racing’s Laurent Travers will become the first man to win the tournament as both a player and a coach.
  • Leinster haven’t lost a lineout in their last four European outings.
  • Leinster have averaged 3.8 tries per fixture this season, more than any other side, while only Munster (1.5) have conceded fewer five-pointers on average than Leinster or Racing (both 1.8).

Guinness PRO14 Final 2018 Ticket Information: Prices start at just €50 at www.ticketmaster.ie with tickets available to suit every experience.
To book hospitality visit: https://www.pro14rugby.org/hospitality
For Travel packages visit: https://www.pro14rugby.org/travel-packages
For Fanzone & Dublin 7s visithttp://www.dublin7sfestival.ie

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