Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 2 August 2014

I fancy Leinster to shade it in France

Two Heineken Cup finals in the same tournament? Could it be possible?

Well, on Sunday we will see a semi-final that could easily befit the final, and then we still have the real thing to come.

Leinster and Clermont, two stellar casts and two complete teams, where the power of the packs is matched only by the cutting edge of the backs.

This is an incredibly difficult match to call. Watching Clermont pound Saracens and then defend in a way that showed they want this trophy sent out an ominous message. Yet Saracens were poor and Leinster are able to call on the experience of being in this position before.

Can the French stay mentally robust? Or can the Leinster pack create enough quick ball for the precision of the Leinster backs to come through?

Home advantage suggests Clermont, but there are several reasons why I fancy Leinster to shade it.

Firstly, the game is in Bordeaux which gives Leinster more of a chance than if it were played at the Stade Michel Michelin.

Secondly, Joe Schmidt’s intelligence, thought and innovation have been striking thus far — he knows Clermont intimately and if anyone can work out some way to hurt them, he can.

Finally, Leinster have had a relatively easy passage to this stage.

Unlike other teams they have not had to dip into that vast well of Heineken experience. This is their first real test and their players will know what is required. And, as clichéd as it sounds, the BOD factor still counts for much.

If Leinster were missing O’Driscoll, then I might feel differently, but when he is present, the others rise to the occasion.

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