Price is right as bookies struggle to separate Heineken Cup finalists
Published 22/05/2009 | 00:14
The phoney war has begun in earnest ahead of tomorrow’s full-blooded Heineken Cup battle with both Leinster and Leicester insistent the other team are favourites.
Leinster overturned the odds in spectacular fashion to beat Munster at Croke Park to reach their first European final, and scrum-half Chris Whitaker is keen to reclaim that underdogs tag, although the bookies cannot separate the teams with both 5/6 to lift the trophy.
Whitaker declared Leicester’s experience from two previous Heineken Cup triumphs gives them a vital advantage heading to Murrayfield this weekend.
"If you are to win the competition you have to beat the best and Leicester are probably the best in the competition," said Whitaker.
"We know exactly what we will come up against. They are a very physical team and a team full of experience, who know how to win these games. We will have to be at our best and match them physically. They have got strike weapons all over the field, from fullback to the front row and even on the bench there are international players."
Leicester won the Guinness Premiership title last weekend and head north aiming to complete the double with a record-equalling third Heineken Cup crown.
The Tigers are on a run of 12 wins from the 13 games, including the dramatic experience of a penalty shoot-out victory over Cardiff Blues in the semi-finals.
Last weekend they shrugged off a poor run of form in recent finals to hold out for a dogged |10-9 victory over London Irish to win the league title.
However captain Geordan Murphy, a Dubliner by birth but a Leicester man through and through, countered Whitaker’s claim and insisted it is the Tigers who face an uphill battle.
Leinster boast four Lions to Leicester’s one — Brian O’Driscoll, Rob Kearney, Luke Fitzgerald and Jamie Heaslip — all of whom head to South Africa on Sunday with strong Test claims.
Murphy said: "Make no mistake, we will be going into the game as the underdogs. Before the semi-finals everyone was saying whoever won the all-Irish semi-final would go on to win the final, so that has to be Leinster as the favourites.
"And, while Leinster have always had a world-class back line, now they also have the forward power to maximise those strengths and flanker Rocky Elsom has been possibly their stand out player this season, a truly tremendous signing.
"Brian O’Driscoll is one of the best centres in the world but if you worry and concentrate on just one player then you will only create space and opportunities for the likes of Gordon D’Arcy, Luke Fitzgerald and Rob Kearney.
"On top of all that, Leinster have never won the Heineken Cup and that will make them an extremely hungry side and give them the desire to beat us."