It is 12:01 on Friday the 10th of May. The Leinster team has been named for the biggest game in a very long time. Would the coaching ticket be able to keep everyone fit and healthy enough to have a full selection to choose from? How would the foreign players rule fit into their plans and are Leinster cooking nicely for the final?
We have spoken about the psychology of the final. In a quick recap, Saracens haven’t had adversity to work through this season. For the most part they have been superior in their matches, even last week against Exeter they dominated. So what will they do when Leinster, who has come through a blip, played 55+ players this season so far, disrupt their Farrell / Itoje / Vin triangle? That is what Leinster will be aiming to do while strangling them with their Leinster-Jitzu.
But back to the team:
So as we can see, the management have kept everyone fit, outside of JGP. Unfortunately for himself as he has been performing at optimum since the semi-final last year. But with that is fortunate the work the team have done grooming Hugh O’Sullivan, gives everyone confidence to give him a match day tracksuit and allows Fardy to be on the pitch which is massively important. While Leinster can be rough and ready, they need that enforcer to get in like Nathan Heinz did, like Elsom and Thorn did and Fardy can do that. He starts at 6 and will be combative. That team selection couldn’t really have gone better for Leinster. The team is cooked after the strangling of Toulouse in the semi-final .They have been rested since then for the most part and as long as they get enough sleep tonight, they will be ready and confident to go.
In preparation for the The 5 Star meetup – Sandymount Hotel – May 11th I have been looking at stats, permutations and combinations and according to the numbers, there is nothing between the teams so far. Stats show us where we are and can give an indication of where we are going, but in this case it is just too close to call. The only stat that differs more than .1% is the lineouts. Leinster has lost more in the games so far. I was corrected by the great Dan Van Zyl in our last show that Leinster are more likely to be more adventurous in the lineout which can lead to more losses in that area. Saracens mostly throw to 2 whereas Leinster is more likely to move the catcher around more. So that is something that will be interesting to watch. Will Saracens spice up the lineout, or will they stick to what has worked for them so far? Leinster have the ability to move the ball around more, will they befuddle Sarries tomorrow?
I am getting excited now!
Can Saracens handle adversity? Will it affect their heads when they haven’t knocked out Leinster with 5 minutes to go and a blue wave coming back at them? Do they have the gas, the quality, the bottle to manage a game against the 4 time champions? They know how hard it is to get to the final, let alone win the cup. Leinster have done it 4 times, they know that. How does that affect them? A bit like Tyson back in the day whose fights where won at the pre-fight press conference, Leinster have that aura. Saracens also have an aura but they really need to put Leinster away to have it long term. More added pressure.
Both teams have their full complement of players. Porter and JGP excluded from Leinster.
Much like Batman being the hero we need not the hero we want, this is the game we need, if you are in blue in the stands, it may not be the one we want.
I am picking Leinster by 3 to 6 points. I want to see how Saracens react to adversity; I don’t think they will handle it as well as they think they will. Much like the England team, they will allow themselves to drift mentally and much like the Leinster team of the last decade, they will move task to task until the job is done.
I can’t wait. See you in the Sandymount Hotel!