Irish side Leinster and French outfit Racing 92 will square off in the European Rugby Champions Cup final, set to be played in Bilbao at San Mames in front of a sold out crowd of over 50.000 fans.
Leinster has been on fire this entire season, winning all matches in the Champions Cup, and dominating their domestic competition as well, currently being qualified for the Guinness Pro 14 semifinals. The Irish giants are on the back of a great 38-16 win over Scarlets two weeks ago in the Champions Cup semifinals, after previously defeating the mighty Saracens 30-19 in the quarterfinals of the competition.
Racing 92 is also having a great season, as the team finished the regular Top 14 season on the second place, though they actually had one more win than the first placed Montpellier. In Europe, Racing 92 had a difficult road to the final, starting with the group stage where they struggled and finished second. Next up they beat Clermont rather comfortably in the quarterfinals, before upsetting Munster 27-22 in the semis. Racing was leading that one 24-3 at half time, but almost blew it after being completely outplayed in the second half.Bet on Leinster vs Racing 92 and claim your 100% (100 Eur) bonus at Ohmbet now!
Team news & lineups:
Both teams have a few injuries, but the biggest news must be Machenaud`s absence for Racing, as he is absolutely instrumental to everything the French team does.
Leinster: 15 Rob Kearney, 14 Jordan Larmour, 13 Garry Ringrose, 12 Robbie Henshaw, 11 Isa Nacewa (c), 10 Johnny Sexton, 9 Luke McGrath, 8 Jordi Murphy, 7 Dan Leavy, 6 Scott Fardy, 5 James Ryan, 4 Devin Toner, 3 Tadhg Furlong, 2 Seán Cronin, 1 Cian Healy
Racing 92: 15 Louis Dupichot, 14 Teddy Thomas, 13 Virimi Vakatawa, 12 Henry Chavancy, 11 Marc Andreu, 10 Pat Lambie, 9 Teddy Iribaren, 8 Yannick Nyanga (c), 7 Bernard Le Roux, 6 Wenceslas Lauret, 5 Leone Nakarawa, 4 Donnacha Ryan, 3 Cedate Gomes Sa, 2 Camille Chat, 1 Eddy Ben Arous
Both teams are deserving finalists, but a fair case could me made that this would have been an all Irish final if Munster didn`t have such a bad first half against Racing in the semis. Munster was all over Racing in the second half of that game and arguably proved to be the better team, but the deficit from the first 40 minutes was too big to overcome.
Racing will face an ever tougher challenge in the form of Leinster, a team which is playing at an incredible level right now, being built on the skeleton of current Six Nations champions, Ireland.
Leinster just seems to have more quality overall and little to no weaknesses, while also showing better chemistry and superiority in key areas of the pitch. The Ringrose – Henshaw and Sexton – McGrath partnerships at 13-12 and 10-9 are so good and well oiled, and should allow Leinster to create havoc on offense.
Machenaud`s absence will also be massive for Racing 92, as one could argue he is their most important player, so his absence in such an important position as No.9 will hinder Racing’s playmaking for sure.
Look for a good game of rugby, but Leinster’s quality, overall chemistry and killer instinct should allow them to win this by more than 10 points, just like they did against Saracens and Scarlets in the previous two rounds. It should also be noted that rain is expected at game time, which should favor the Irish team, especially with Machenaud out for Racing (whose tactical kicking would have been vital in the rain).
My tip is Leinster to cover the -10,5 handicap. Prediction: Leinster – Racing 30 – 14.