Munster / Leinster – Potential Champions Cup Final
Munster and Leinster take on The Scarlets and Racing 92 this weekend in the European Champions Cup Semi Finals in Dublin and Bordeaux. Both Irish teams will be buoyed by the Irish team winning a Grand Slam back in March. Given the fact that both sides were in the same position last season before being defeated by Saracens and Clermont Auvergne.
So many times in sport, we hear that teams will learn from their defeats more than they learn from wins and this weekend is the ideal chance for both provinces to show how far they have come in 12 months.
Leinster are first into action on Saturday afternoon playing The Scarlets in the Aviva Stadium and will hopefully have the services of Robbie Henshaw who may return from injury for the game this weekend. Questions remain over Sean O Brien but the fact that Dan Leavy has played so well along with the return to fitness of Jack Conan , Leinster should be well stocked in the back row.
Leinster played very well against Saracens and have given the majority of that 23 the chance to rest up with one eye on this Semi Final. The strength of the squad has been well documented in recent times even though they were beaten by Treviso last Saturday evening.
Leo Cullen and Stuart Lancaster have Leinster playing a very physical brand of rugby and they seem to be at the races in defence also this two aspects of their game will be severely tested by The Scarlets like it was in last year’s Pro 12 Semi Final in the RDS. On that occasion The Scarlets managed to win and went on to secure a maiden Pro 12 title win.
Wayne Pivac will demand those same high standards this weekend and if they reach the same pitch as they did against La Rochelle at home, then who knows where they will end up. Leinster are three times winners of this competition last winning in 2012 and you can be sure they will want to have another crack at winning the title but first they will need to be at their very best to see off the Scarlets.
I feel Leinster will have learned from last year in Europe and domestically and they will book a one way ticket to Bilbao for the May 12th show piece.
Munster who are now under the stewardship of Johan Van Graan will want to go one better than last year and even after all the upheaval of earlier this year where they had to contend with Rassie Erasmus moving onto South Arica in November and Johan Van Graan coming on board with a quarter of the campaign behind them. But they bounced back very well in the few weeks after Van Graan took over. They now have the chance to make first European Final since 2008.
For the first time since 2009, there is a real opportunity for both Leinster and Munster to get to a European Final and we can only but hope that both teams will gain victory this weekend and give Irish rugby the perfect finish to what has already been a terrific season that saw Ireland win a third Grand Slam.
All the best to both teams, coaches and supporters this weekend….. Roll on 3.15 Saturday
Cian Mc Gibney