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By Darraghgirl
March 28 2018

  For Saracens this Sunday is the first must-win game as the season approaches its sharp end. Having just squeezed into the European quarter finals in 8th place (thanks to a big favour from Wasps) Saracens’ reward is an away match with the top-ranked side Leinster, who also have 100% record in this year’s competition. In years gone by, the result of such a tie would have been a forgone conclusion but I very much doubt if Leinster will feel this tie was fair reward for topping the pile! Last season of course Sarries also visited the Aviva Stadium, this time at the semi-final stage, where a win against Munster propelled them to Edinburgh and back-to-back European titles. No one will be taking anything for granted!  

Leinster of course, playing in the Pro-14 and in a format nobody seems to understand, are virtually assured of progress to next year’s Champions Cup and therefore were able to rest pretty much their entire first team against Ospreys last weekend (the defeat didn’t really matter in the long run as they sit on top of Conference B) while Sarries played all their fit internationals in the win over Quins. The Leinster side is of course studied with Ireland Internationals, full of confidence following their Grand Slam a couple of weeks ago. Leinster Head Coach is Leo Cullen who learned his trade under Michael Cheika and Joe Schmidt on the field and then Matt O’Connor before taking over in 2015. He was joined by former England coach Stuart Lancaster in 2016 and together they have taken Leinster back to the heights of European rugby.

Everywhere you look there are superstars in the Leinster line up. The front row of Cian Healy, Sean Cronin and the amazing Tadhg Furlong would be a handful for any International side, let alone Sarries. Locks are likely to be Ross Moloney and Jim Hamilton’s nemesis Devin Toner while the back row will probably include Dan Leavy, Josh Van der Flier and Jordi Murphy. The half backs are likely to be Luke McGrath (who seems to have recovered from a knee injury) and Jonny Sexton while the centres will most likely feature he dangerous Garry Ringrose and Isa Nacewa. James Lowe and Adam Byrne may feature on the wing with Rob Kearney at full back. Leinster do have a few injury worries. Jamie Heaslip was sadly forced to retire last month. Noel Reid, Dave Kearney and promising wing Jordan Larmour are ruled out and Fergus McFadden and Jack Conan doubtful. Sean O’Brien and Rhys Ruddock are making progress and could also be fit for Sunday.

Saracens will need to be at their very best if they are to succeed where England failed. I have no doubt that Mark McCall will field his strongest team but of course what that will be remains a bit of a mystery. How serious is Faz’s injury? (McCall says 50:50) What about George Kruis? Doesn’t sound like Billy is ready to return. How is Brad after leaving the field on Saturday? We need a strong performance from the front row. I assume Mako, Jamie and Figallo will start but they will have needed to spend the week on the scrummaging machine! I hope to see Kritoje reunited at lock and probably Isiekwe, Burger and Wray in the back row (unless a miracle happens). Wiggy and Faz will probably be the half backs with Brad and Bosch at centre (or Loz if Brad isn’t fit), Maitland and “our Liam” on the wing and Goodey at fullback. The bench could be critical and will hopefully be a bit stronger than in recent weeks. Maybe Baz, Brits and possibly Longbottom, Vailanu & Cowan, Spencer, Loz (unless he starts) and Wyles.

Referee is Jerome Garces, one of the best so there should be no complaints there.

Apparently the Aviva Stadium is almost sold out – and we know what colours most of them will be wearing but we have made our presence felt before and we can do so again. So who will come out of this Easter bunnies and who will be the April Fools? The smart money must be on Leinster but we should not forget we are double European Champions and we are not going to let go of that trophy without a fight. As they say “you have to be in it to win it”. Sarries will not be overawed by Leinster (as was the case last time we played them). They have earned the right to eat at the top table with the best in Europe. They are the best in Europe. On Sunday they need to prove it.

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28/03/2018 19:41
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Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 2018:04:08:07:07:51 by Darraghgirl.

OldMarovian (IP Logged)
29/03/2018 18:26
An excellent aperitif to seeing the team selected tomorrow. Many thanks.

The Bard (IP Logged)
29/03/2018 19:06
Excellent as ever. Will we see Krutojwie for the first time?

Coughie (IP Logged)
30/03/2018 10:07
Leinster back row will include the second row Scott Fardy according to the

Irish Independent

In that case Nick Isiekwe at 6 for Saracens?

Leinster fear the Saracens lineout, or playing mind games?

~ You never knowingly let the facts get in the way of the story. ~

Seany_Boy0511 (IP Logged)
31/03/2018 13:53
Great preview, let's hope the action on the field reflects it and may the best team win ,( Hopefully Sarries)

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