The Heineken Cup Final takes place at Twickenham on Saturday with two Irish clubs, Leinster and Ulster, battling it out for Europe’s main prize.
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After another exciting season of Heineken Cup rugby, Irish pair Leinster and Ulster clash at Twickenham on Saturday to decide who will be crowned Europe’s best club side (Leinster 1/4, draw 25/1, Ulster 3/1 – Match Betting).
Both teams have impressed on their way to the final and the game has all the ingredients to be a classic, with Leinster looking for their second successive title while Ulster are looking to upset the odds and win the province’s second European crown after previously succeeding in 1999.
Understandably, the holders are the favourites going into the game after once again lighting up the northern hemisphere’s premier club competition with their exiting brand of attacking rugby, epitomised by legendary centre Brian O’Driscoll (14/1 – First Tryscorer) who has defied the odds to declare himself fit for the match following knee surgery.
However, despite O’Driscoll’s talismanic influence, there’s one man who has become possibly more important than the skipper in recent years and that’s fly-half Jonathan Sexton.
The 26-year-old was tipped for big things as a youngster but always seemed to prefer style over substance before coming of age during the Dubliners’ first Heineken triumph in 2009 and is now the fulcrum of Joe Schmidt’s side. His ability to dictate play could be vital on Saturday and so expect him to once again raise his game for the occasion.
Ulster have often been seen as somewhat of a poor relation to their more illustrious neighbours but after a few seasons of quietly building both on and off the field they are now well and truly a top-class side.
Look down their squad list and you’ll see Grand Slam and World Cup winners in abundance and it’s one of their world champions who could make a huge difference at Twickenham.
Prop John Afoa (50/1 – First Tryscorer) joined Kevin McLaughlin’s men after helping the All Blacks win the World Cup on home soil in November and has continued his fine form, decimating his rivals throughout his short spell at Ravenhill.
If Leinster have one weakness it’s undoubtedly their scrum and Afoa will certainly fancy his chances against Cian Healy who, although sometimes spectacular in the loose, has a history of problems in the set-piece.
Although you may not see all of his good work, Afoa will certainly play a huge part in the outcome of the game and if you notice the Leinster’s scrum edging backwards, you can have little doubt who is responsible.
Local derbies are always close to call but the extra experience could be a telling factor and Leinster should just sneak the title, but it will certainly be a tight match (Leinster 5/1 to win by 1-5 points).