While the pain of losing a Champions Cup final might still be in the hearts of every Leinster player this weekend (and supporters alike), you can be sure that they will be determined to not let that feeling occur again two weeks later. Second chances don’t come around often and this weekend gives Leinster an opportunity to make amends by improving on a performance that wasn’t good enough to lift the Heineken Cup trophy, and finish the season off on a high by lifting the Pro14 trophy! There must be a lot of motivation in the squad based on that and I can only imagine that there will be a laser focus from 1-23 from kick-off tomorrow evening. The lessons of past defeats are only as good as the learning you take from them however, so the squad will need to be switched on and completely aligned on the game plan that needs to be executed.
Leinster and Glasgow come into this game on the back of two sublime semi-final performances at home. Glasgow utterly demolished Ulster 50-20 and showed their attacking skills for their home supporters. Leinster dominated Munster at the RDS with a two try to nil encounter that resulted in a 24-9 victory. Both victories said a lot about both sides; Glasgow are unstoppable when they have forward momentum, and Leinster’s pack are clearly a level above any other team in the Pro14 this season.
There aren’t a lot of sides that can beat Leinster but based on the attacking masterclass from Glasgow last weekend, it looks like they are well capable! In fairness however, Ulster probably played their worst game of the season and it most certainly helped Glasgow romp to victory. Leinster weren’t exactly made dig too deep either but the manner in which both teams went about their business highlighted a very key point; the two best teams in the competition are in the final.
Glasgow’s team selection for tomorrow is unchanged from last weekend, whereas Cullen has made three changes to the side that knocked out Munster:
15. Rob Kearney (209)
14. Jordan Larmour (38)
13. Garry Ringrose (64)
12. Robbie Henshaw (36)
11. James Lowe (29)
10. Johnny Sexton (159) CAPTAIN
9. Luke McGrath (112)
1. Cian Healy (207)
2. Seán Cronin (172)
3. Tadhg Furlong (101)
4. Scott Fardy (43)
5. James Ryan (30)
6. Rhys Ruddock (160)
7. Josh van der Flier (72)
8. Jack Conan (88)
16. Bryan Byrne (41)
17. Ed Byrne (44)
18. Andrew Porter (52)
19. Ross Molony (81)
20. Max Deegan (45)
21. Nick McCarthy (35)
22. Ross Byrne (70)
23. Rory O’Loughlin (61)
Rather than go through all 14 internationals that are starting (plus James Lowe), I think it’s more important to mention the players that are missing. Devin Toner will miss out this week after sustaining an injury in the semi final. There’ll be no swansong for Sean O’Brien who hasn’t made it back in time for a final game in blue colours. So too Jack McGrath is is also set to depart Leinster after the weekend.
Ross Molony has come in to the team at the right time given Toner’s absence. He will be in line to take over duties from Rhys Ruddock should he be called ashore. Ed and Bryan Byrne are rewarded for their second half performance last week and their power will more than likely be called upon once more should Healy and Cronin exit before full time.
All in all, it’s an incredible starting 15, with immense experience and strength in every position. The bench is a tad bit weaker than normal but similar to the bench that was called upon when we faced Toulouse in the semi final of the Champions Cup, so I’ll be confident that they’ll produce the goods tomorrow.
Glasgow has a lot of internationals crammed into their side too but on paper, Leinster look to be the stronger side, take a look at the match up below for evidence of this:
Where the game will be won
Cool heads is what’s required to win this game. It will be faced paced and full of energy from the first minute, there’s no doubt. There’ll be slick passing, tactical kicking and powerful hits a plenty, a contest which both teams will give their all for. The winning of the game however will come down to who executes their plan the best and is able to be patient in both attack and defense. Both head coaches are far too good to not come up with a plan that isn’t capable of exploiting weaknesses, and I think it’s the weaknesses of both sides that both coaches have been analysing most throughout this weak’s video review sessions. I will expect Glasgow to probe our wings more than any other area of our defensive line knowing that it’s the only area where they can potentially come out on top. This will mean that Lowe and Larmour will need to be on point, and Kearney and Ringrose in particular will need to anticipate any weaknesses on our side so they can provide additional defensive cover around the fringes.
Glasgow will undoubtedly look to take the game to Leinster, hold on to possession and bombard Leinster’s defensive walls as much as possible. However, they too will need to be on the lookout for poachers on Leinster’s side who on many occasions this season can steal ball and set up devastating counter attacking plays in very quick succession. Glasgow will need to be a little more conservative with their fast ball and frenetic approach, as one wrong play and Leinster will capitalise. This could play into Leinster’s hands as it will force Glasgow to reroute their greatest strength into other areas.
Leinster players have been paying a lot of tribute to their supporters all week; highlighting the immense sea of blue that welcomed them to St. James’ Park for the Champions Cup final a couple of weeks ago. Leo Cullen mentioned today that that was one of the highlights of his career to date. It doesn’t sound like a lot of Leinster supporters are travelling tomorrow given the massive expense of two finals in as many weeks, so it really will have that home game feel for Glasgow where are after all playing in Glasgow! That being said, it’s very clear that the squad are looking to repay the supporters for their loyalty which as Sexton said, whether they’re at the stadium or back home. I think Leinster have rebound well from their Champions Cup final woes and look incredibly focused since the beginning of last week. There seems to be a strong collective drive within the squad to go on and salvage the season with another piece of silverware. I think the boys in blue will accomplish their goal tomorrow and defend their title in style.
Final cheeky prediction of the season – Sexton will score under the posts, and Larmour will use those dancing feet to do the same!
Leinster 28 – Glasgow 19
COME ON YOU BOYS IN BLUE!!!!!!