European Champions Cup Final Predictions & Rugby Union Betting Tips | Sports News


Lionel Hahn

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Leinster’s Jack Conan in action against La Rochelle is last season’s semi-final

Lionel Hahn

Free rugby union advice, best bets and analysis for Saturday’s European Champions Cup final between Leinster and La Rochelle.

where to watch

Channel 4, Virgin Media Two and BT Sport 2, 4:45 p.m.

Best bet

La Rochelle +7 on handicap in the second half
2pts 5-6 power of rice

Match preview

Leinster were the team on everyone’s lips at the start of the European Champions Cup and the 3-1 ante-post favorites are now just 1-4 away from lifting the trophy for the fifth time.

Standing in their way are French behemoths La Rochelle, who have never won the tournament but reached their first final last season, two years after reaching their first European Challenge Cup final, so they are clearly a rising team.

The French side overcame Leinster in the semi-finals last year, winning 32-23 at home, but that was against a Leinster side who lacked big names, and this year the boot is on the other foot.

Fly-half and talisman Jonny Sexton was a big miss for Leinster in this game, but they are full this year while La Rochelle are without scrum-half Tawera Kerr-Barlow and striker Victor Vito.

A great physical team famed for their tireless defence, La Rochelle are more about the collective than star names and their results suggest they won’t be child’s play.

Unbeaten in Europe this season, La Rochelle are fourth in the Top 14 and have one of the strongest defenses in France – with the second fewest points and third fewest tries. They have lost 11 league matches but only two of them by more than ten points.

It makes a 12-point handicap look interesting, but the magnitude of that line simply reflects the fact that Leinster have been a cut above the rest of Europe this season and set new standards.

Huge group stage wins were followed by a convincing round of 16 success against Connacht, an away triumph over Premiership leaders Leicester and then a dominating performance against champions Manchester United. Europe in title Toulouse. The Irish outfit had to do it the hard way but never looked uncomfortable.

Given the physical nature of the La Rochelle side, they will no doubt be looking to dominate in close quarters combat and slow down the fast ball delivery that is key to Leinster’s attacking success.

It’s tempting to end up with the French side receiving that big handicap, but given the 20+ point margin of victory Leinster faced Toulouse in the semi-finals, another dazzling success can’t be ruled out.

Instead, it might be worth backing the underdogs to keep the fight close during the game and stay within a seven-point handicap in the second half.

Leinster conceded nine tries in the knockout stage, but only two of them were in the first half, while nine of La Rochelle’s 13 goals came after the break.

Finals tend to be wary affairs, but La Rochelle can up the physical ante as the game progresses.

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