All you need to know ahead of the Champions Cup final between Leinster and Racing 92 in Bilbao
Leinster v Racing 92 Champions Cup final preview
Leinster will be aiming to equal Toulouse’s record of four European Cup titles when they take to the field in Bilbao on Saturday night – and if they are triumphant they will emulate Saracens’ achievement of winning all nine games in a single campaign.
Leinster’s previous triumphs came in 2009, 2011 and 2012, and their current head coach Leo Cullen started as captain in all three finals. Cian Healy, Johnny Sexton, Isa Nacewa and Devin Toner were also in the match-day line-ups for those victories and all four start in this year’s final.
Standing in their way are Racing 92, who are playing in their second Champions Cup final having lost to Saracens in 2016. They are without talismanic scrum-half Maxime Machenaud, who is also their regular goalkicker, due to injury, but any side that can afford to keep All Blacks Dan Carter and Joe Rokocoko on the bench is dangerous.
They are also the only team in the Top 14 to concede fewer than 500 points in the regular season so Leinster will need to work hard to break down that defence.
How did the two teams reach this stage?
Leinster won all six of their pool games – impressive when the group included Exeter, Montpellier and Glasgow. They knocked out defending champions Saracens with a 30-19 win in the quarter-finals and overcame Scarlets 38-16 in the semis.
In contrast, Racing lost two of their pool games – to Munster and Castres – but then won away at Clermont (28-17) in the last eight before beating Munster 27-22 in the semi-finals.
What have the players said?
Leinster back-row Dan Leavy: “Racing are a great team and are packed full of big names. The strength in depth is incredible and they have the best defence in the Top 14. If we are going to beat them, we will need to find that extra gear against them”
Racing 92 back-row Yannick Nyanga: “We have the firepower to worry any team. But what we want to do is not only to worry them, but to beat them. I hope to return home with a big smile on my face, holding the trophy! Only victory will satisfy us.”
Any interesting statistics?
- When these two clubs met in the pool stage in 2010-11, Leinster won both matches.
- Leinster have averaged more tries per Champions Cup game than any other side this season – 3.8.
- Both teams have tight defences, conceding on average 1.8 tries a game.
- Racing’s Fijian lock Leone Nakarawa has made eight more offloads than any other player in the Champions Cup this season with 20. He is also the only player from either side to have played every minute of their eight games to date.
- Luke McGrath’s six try assists are more than any other player in the Champions Cup.
- Johnny Sexton has a 100% goalkicking record in this season’s knockout stages, slotting 11 from 11 – seven conversions and four penalties.
When does it kick off and is it on TV?
Bilbao’s San Mamés Stadium is hosting this year’s Champions Cup final, which will kick off at 4.45pm in the UK and Ireland (5.45pm in Spain). It is being televised live on both BT Sport and Sky Sports.
The officials are all English with Wayne Barnes the referee and JP Doyle and Tom Foley his assistants.
What are the line-ups?
LEINSTER: Rob Kearney; Jordan Larmour, Garry Ringrose, Robbie Henshaw, Isa Nacewa; Johnny Sexton, Luke McGrath; Cian Healy, Sean Cronin, Tadhg Furlong, Devin Toner, James Ryan, Scott Fardy, Dan Leavy, Jordi Murphy.
Replacements: James Tracy, Jack McGrath, Andrew Porter, Rhys Ruddock, Jack Conan, Jamison Gibson-Park, Joey Carbery, Rory O’Loughlin.
RACING 92: Louis Dupichot; Teddy Thomas, Virimi Vakatawa, Henry Chavancy, Marc Andreu; Pat Lambie, Teddy Iribaren; Eddy Ben Arous, Camille Chat, Cedate Gomes Sa, Donnacha Ryan, Leone Nakarawa, Wenceslas Lauret, Bernard Le Roux, Yannick Nyanga.
Replacements: Ole Avei, Vasil Kakovin, Census Johnston, Boris Palu, Baptiste Chouzenoux, Antoine Gibert, Dan Carter, Joe Rokocoko.
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