Champions Cup Semi-Finals Preview: All-Irish final on the cards?
Preview and tips ahead of both last-four games
This weekend sees the two Champions Cup semi-finals contested by two Irish provinces, a Welsh outfit, and a French giant.
Leinster host Scarlets on Saturday at Dublin’s Aviva Stadium, while Munster travel to Paris to take on Racing 92 on Sunday.
It’s all set-up for a possible first-ever All-Ireland Champions Cup Final. And it would surprise no one considering both sides make up the majority of Ireland’s Grand Slam winning side.
But can both Leinster and Munster pull it off? The Coral News Team previews the two semis…
Leinster v Scarlets – Saturday, 3:30pm
Leinster have arguably been the best team in European rugby this season. Leo Cullen’s side play with a style and panache up there with the very best attacking outfits in the sport.
The Irish province have a superb mixture of young prodigies and world-class senior stars. Mix the likes of Garry Ringrose, Joey Carbery, and Jordan Larmour, with Jonny Sexton, Rob Kearney, and Cian Healy, and you have a frightening blend of talent.
And that’s why the Dublin-based side are warm favourites against Llanelli’s Scarlets. The Welsh side play in only their fourth European Cup semi-final. And no Welsh team has ever won it outright.
However, Wayne Pivac’s team could have a little slice history on their side. Scarlets had never beaten Leinster away from home up until last season when they defeated the Irish outfit in the Pro-12 semi-finals.
But this Leinster side has grown in confidence and stature since then and Ireland’s Grand Slam win will have only bolstered their belief.
The prediction is Leinster to win, but the 11-point handicap seems a little off. Scarlets are no mugs, and recent games have been very close. Scarlets are 10/11 on the +11 Handicap.
Racing 92 v Munster – Sunday, 3:15pm
Munster are no strangers to European Cup semi-finals. In fact, no side has been in more. This is the Irish province’s 13th time at the last-four stage.
However, the concern is that they have progressed from just four. And French soil is a notoriously difficult place to get a result. But Munster do have history in that department in terms of the famous victories over Toulouse and Castres in 2000 and 2002, respectively.
Racing are relative new-boys to this stage of the competition. This will only be the Top-14 team’s second appearance at the semi-final stage.
So Munster have the greater pedigree. But do they have the team to win? The resounding answer would be yes. Scrum-half Conor Murray is arguably the best player in the world at the minute. And their pack consisting of the likes of CJ Stander, John Ryan, and Peter O’Mahony is formidable.
Munster also hold a great record over the Parisians, winning four of the six previous meetings. However, these two played each other in the Pool stages with both home side winning.
It was a four-point game in Paris with Racing just about edging over the line. Indiscipline cost Munster dear that day. If they can cut out the penalties, they could edge this encounter.
Racing’s half-back partnership of Dan Carter and Maxime Machenaud are top-class, though. The French side are a machine and have flair in the backline through Teddy Thomas and Joe Rokocoko.
This game should be seriously tight. Munster are 10/11 on the +4 Handicap.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing