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Dublin: 13°C Friday 23 April 2021
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Heineken Cup Preview: Leinster vs Northampton Saints

It’s the biggest game of the European rugby calendar. Are you ready?

Will Leinster's Shane Horgan and Isa Nacewa being embracing come the full-time whistle this evening?
Will Leinster's Shane Horgan and Isa Nacewa being embracing come the full-time whistle this evening?
Image: PA

Leinster vs Northampton Saints

Where: Millennium Stadium, Cardiff

When: Saturday, 17:00

Where to watch: Sky Sports 1, 4pm; RTÉ Two, 9pm (extended highlights)

Odds: Leinster 4/11 Northampton 2/1

The day of reckoning for Joe Schmidt and his blue army has arrived. Since the quarter-final draw was made, Leinster have been favourites to claim a second Heineken Cup crown. Now, the only thing that stands in their way is the Northampton Saints.

This afternoon’s final sees the two form teams in European rugby go head-t0-head. With eight wins out of eight in the tournament to date, Jim Mallinder’s men are on course to become the first 100% team in Heineken Cup history.

Though Northampton were convincing in their wins over Ulster and Perpignan in the knockout stages, their path to today’s final has been slightly easier than that of their opponents. As Leinster fans are quick to remind anyone who’ll listen, they have already accounted for both of this year’s Aviva Premiership finalists (Leicester and Saracens) and the both of the Top 14 finalists (Toulouse and Racing Metro).

The Irish province may be the favourites, but they will know better than to underestimate their opponents. Northampton’s front-row is one of the best in the business and while Healy, Ross and Strauss are no slouches, they will be under immense pressure in the scrum from the very first minute.

The inclusion of Brian O’Driscoll in the Blues starting XV is of immeasurable significance – if he is in fact fully fit. If Leinster are slightly outmatched up front, they hold all the aces in the battle of the backs.

If nothing else, today’s game promises to be full of compelling individual battles – Ross vs. Tonga’uiha; Nacewa vs. Foden; Sexton vs. Myler.

To paraphrase a famous Briton, it will be a “damn close run thing,” but Leinster should just have the edge.

They say:

Northampton are a massive blip on our radar… they’ve won eight from eight. They want to be the first team ever to win nine from nine and they’ve just about got the firepower to do it. — Joe Schmidt, Leinster coach.

Finishing the season without silverware is not something we’re considering at the moment. It has been a good season for us, but right now there is only one thing on it for us – and it either makes our summer or breaks our summer – the result on Saturday. — Jim Mallinder, Northampton coach.

TheScore.ie says: Leinster to win by five or less. Expect a tense finale.

Read our liveblog from the road to Cardiff>

About the author:

Niall Kelly

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