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Dublin: 5°C Thursday 4 March 2021

Pro12 final: three key battles that will decide Leinster v Ospreys

Leinster are coming down from the high of winning a Heineken Cup, the Ospreys know how to win at the RDS. Who will prevail?

Image: ©INPHO/Billy Stickland

THERE ARE MERE hours to go until Leinster face their 80 minutes of reckoning.

Two halves at home which will decide whether or not they carry a modicum of regret into next season, or not.

Joe Schmidt refuses to say whether or not his team have achieved a marked improvement from the class of 2011.

Win these three battles and he’ll have to ladel out the credit and praise with the rest of us.

Heinke van der Merwe v Adam Jones

Early this week, before Cian Healy had injured his quad muscle, the loose head was asked where he ranked Adam Jones. “Right up there” was the response, before he qualified it by insisting he does not sit around thinking about who the best is.

Healy will get much less of an opportunity to test himself against Jones than he expected. Instead Heinke van der Merwe comes in against Wales’ number three and will have bad memories of their last meeting, when Jones and his mane tore through Leinster front rows like they were going out of fashion.

The South African will have more weight behind him this time, but he will still have a difficult time coping with his direct opponent.

Shane Jennings v Justin Tipuric

Sam Warburton aside, there are few opensides to boast to the prowess of Justin Tipuric. Ospreys have built much of their game around defence and Tipuric – with his tackle count and sticky fingers in the ruck – is central to that.

In the semi-final win over Munster, Ospreys were happy to concede territory and possession, knowing their outside backs could turn on the gas if Tipuric and co. could manage to turn the ball over. They did.

Sean O’Brien has done some incredible work acting as a seven in Leinster’s semi final and final win, but today Shane Jennings must prevent his opposite number influencing the game.

Gordon D’Arcy v Ashley Beck

When the boys in black (or white today) do attack, they tend to do it through the centres, Ashley Beck and Andy Bishop. We fancy Brian O’Driscoll to have the measure of Bishop, but Gordon D’Arcy must ensure his excellent recent standards do not slip against Beck, a powerful, pacy runner with a dangerous off-load.

About the author:

Sean Farrell

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