Anything else would be a surprise. The feeling in both camps is, I trust, somewhat different, but you have to be a starry-eyed optimist to expect either Glasgow to beat Leinster in Dublin or Edinburgh to win against the Stormers in Cape Town. There are two things we have learned. Leinster regularly outplay the Scottish clubs and the South African provinces are likely to overpower them, in southern hemisphere matches anyway.
In Marseille last week, La Rochelle showed that Leinster are not unbeatable, and Glasgow may take heart from the memory of having at least given the new European champions some difficulty in the earlier stage of the Heineken. Yet there is no way in which Glasgow can dominate Leinster up front as La Rochelle eventually did. Nor is there any reason to suppose that they can play with the remarkable control and self-discipline which enabled La Rochelle to score the two late tries which secured their victory. Moreover, Leinster, at home to a Scottish club, are unlikely to opt for kicking short-range penalty goals rather than putting the ball in the corner and going for a try. It was respect for La Rochelle that persuaded Johnny Sexton to take the points, and indeed this decision seemed wise till the last few minutes of the match.
Sexton isn’t playing today. He got a knock last weekend, but I guess that Leinster’s confidence is so high that he might anyway have been saved in anticipation of the expected semi-final. However Jamison Gibson-Park is at scrum-half and his ability to deliver swift ball to the players outside him has been one of the keys to Leinster’s success. As for Glasgow one wonders if they have sufficient self-belief to give them a chance of winning in Dublin. Doing so would surely be the high point of Danny Wilson’s time as Glasgow’s coach. Glasgow’s best rugby this year has been played when they were able to field a back row of Matt Fagerson, Rory Darge and Jack Dempsey, but only Dempsey is fit and playing today.
Edinburgh also have long-term back-row absentees – Jamie Ritchie and Bill Mata. They have however managed well without them for much of the season, Magnus Bradbury and Luke Crosbie both having been in excellent form. Since Mike Blair took over as coach, Edinburgh have played bold and delightful rugby, scoring some spectacular tries. There will, one assumes, be no change of style. It is perhaps unfortunate that scrum-half Ben Vellacott is unfit. His replacement, Henry Pyrgos, is vastly experienced and a canny game-manager, but, even in his younger days, he wasn’t the quickest of scrum-halves. An Edinburgh victory is conceivable, but would be the happiest of surprises.
Gregor Townsend would doubtless be delighted if either Edinburgh or Glasgow win today, for a victory would do much to boost players’ confidence. On the other hand, given that Scotland will be playing three Tests in Argentina in July – and an “A” international against Chile too – he might not be altogether unhappy to see the domestic season come to an end now. He will also have a wary eye on a full round of English Premiership matches in which a fair number of players likely to be wanted for Argentina will feature: Stuart Hogg, Jonny Gray, Sam Skinner, Chris Harris, Adam Hastings, Rory Sutherland, Duhan van derMerwe, possibly one or two others he has his eye on.
Meanwhile, the news that the South African clubs now laying in the URC will be allowed to qualify for the European Heineken Champions and Challenge Cups, doubtless inevitable once they were admitted to what was previously the Pro14 makes it clear that the going for Scottish clubs and indeed for Scottish international rugby gets harder and more demanding every year, does so indeed the louder money talks.