THE CONTACT ZONE
Last week former Ireland coach Eddie O’Sullivan offered up this pithy advice to Leinster in a podcast.
“The battle at the weekend is very straightforward. Leinster have to play a physical confrontational game and basically pound the hell out of Glasgow every chance they get.”
Leinster will fancy they can pound the hell out of Glasgow in much the same way that Saracens pounded the hell out of them in the Champions Cup final. Admittedly a Leinster pack without Devin Toner and Dan Leavy is weakened but look out for Kiwi winger James Lowe who specialises in pounding people.
THE KICKING GAME
Both of these sides like to attack with the ball in hand but Saracens showed just how destructive an aggressive rush defence can be and no one will want to concede soft points trying to run the ball out of their own red zone.
Johnny Sexton is good at this sort of stuff, look out for his trademark kick/pass to the openside winger, but Adam Hastings also displayed the full range of his attacking kicks in an early league match when he unlocked Munster’s defence like Fagin himself.
When Leinster hooker Sean Cronin scored a crucial try against Munster in the semi-final he was sent on his way to the line by his twin props, Cian Healy and Tadhg Furlong. Glasgow have also picked a ball-playing side with Matt Fagerson’s duel against Jack Conan one to watch. The pair are both slight for the modern age but highly-skilled players.
Leone Nakarawa won the trophy for Glasgow against Munster four years ago with several outrageous offloads for DTH van der Merwe and Rob Harley to score. Who will fill those big boots tonight?
Andrew Porter and Ed Byrne looked better scrummagers than Leinster’s star-spangled starting props when they came on to the field against Munster, although coach Leo Cullen probably wishes that he had not sanctioned flanker Jordi Murphy’s move to Ulster after losing Dan Leavy to injury.
Glagsow’s bench can’t match Leinster’s set-piece excellence but they boast more game changers in the backs should they be chasing the game late on. George Horne seems to specialise in scoring/creating tries late in the game and often in concert with brother Peter, who knows exactly when that little chip-kick over the opposition try line is coming. The pair scored from the tactic against Edinburgh back in December and, again, against Ulster in the recent semi-final.
Huw Jones also has a point to prove after Dave Rennie selected his rising star Kyle Steyn over his falling one.
Monkey see, monkey do. Leinster have seen exactly how effective Saracens’ smother defence is and they will be sure to reproduce it.
Leinster don’t really do the X-factor. Instead, the Dublin side focus on doing the basics well and with the minimum of mistakes.
Don’t knock it, the tactic has won them five league titles and four European Cups thus far.
Glasgow do things a little differently and it is a fine line between their high-risk, high-tempo game and the headless chicken impersonation that invariably follows if they lack that all-important accuracy with ball in hand.
In what will be Stuart Hogg’s final game for Glasgow the danger remains that the fullback, and a few colleagues, try too hard and, blinded by the emotion of the occasion, run up a few dead ends as a result.
Today’s cup will likely go to the team that can, as Sir Clive Woodward has it, think clearly under pressure.