Champions Cup: Leinster can crown season with European triumph over Racing 92

Leinster fly-half Johnny Sexton
Johnny Sexton is bidding to win his fourth European Cup
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Simon Mail previews this year's Champions Cup final in Spain and thinks favourites Leinster will be too strong for Racing 92...

"Leinster have won the competition three times and their experience on the biggest stage gives them an advantage. But it is their European form this season, which includes dominant wins over Saracens and Scarlets, which is the biggest factor in their favour."

Champions Cup Final
Leinster v Racing 92
Saturday, 16:45
Live on Sky Sports Action and BT Sport 2

Unbeaten Leinster deserve favourites tag

Leinster are overwhelming favourites to crown their exceptional Champions Cup campaign with victory over Racing 92 in the final in Bilbao. The Irish club have been outstanding in this season's competition and will be difficult to stop if they reproduce the form which dismantled Scarlets in the semi-final last month.

As the only unbeaten team left in this year's tournament, Leinster deserve their status as the team to beat heading into this weekend's final. Their form in the group stage was impossible to fault as they won all six games which included home and away victories over Premiership champions Exeter and Pro14 Conference table-toppers Glasgow.

Leinster certainly did not have it easy in the quarter-finals of the Champions Cup with a tie against Saracens - the winners of the competition for the last two years. But Leo Cullen's side ended the holders' grip on the trophy with a 30-19 victory at Aviva Stadium. Leinster were even better in the last-four as they dominated Scarlets, scoring five tries in their 38-16 win.

Racing 92 desperate to land first European trophy

Racing 92 reached the final two years ago and will be desperate to go one better this time around after losing to Saracens in 2016. The Top 14 side have another opportunity after progess this year despite finishing second in their pool. Racing were beaten by Munster and Castres in the group stage but four victories sent them through as one of the best runners-up.

This resulted in Racing travelling to French rivals Clermont in their last-eight tie but the visitors produced a dominant second-half performance to overturn a slight deficit and win 28-17. In the semi-finals, Racing faced Munster again after the teams shared a win apiece in the pool stage. But Racing raced out the traps and a superb first-half display, featuring two tries from Teddy Thomas, helped them take a commanding lead. A Munster fightback tightened the scoreline but Racing were always in control during their 27-22 win.

Their final hopes have been damaged by the loss of Maxime Machenaud after the France scrum-half was ruled out with ruptured ligaments in his knee. This is a significant blow for the outsiders with their influential captain missing. His absence will undoubtedly make their task harder although they still have a squad full of internationals including World Cup winner Dan Carter in his final season at the club.

Leinster look to have all the answers in final showdown

Leinster have won the competition three times and their experience on the biggest stage gives them an advantage. But it is their European form this season, which includes dominant wins over Saracens and Scarlets, which is the biggest factor in their favour. Leinster have won both halves in their two knockout matches this season and the Irish giants look worth backing to do the same against Racing 92 in Spain.

There are no obvious weaknesses in Leinster's team, with their set-piece exceptionally strong and the backline stacked with quality. Fly-half Johnny Sexton can be expected to keep the scoreboard moving in their favour by nailing his kicks and Leinster are fancied to cover a five-point second-half handicap. Their last five matches in the Champions Cup have seen them cover this mark and a tiring Racing side could struggle to stay with their opponents after the break.

Follow Simon's bets on Twitter @watfordtipster

2017/18 Rugby P/L

Staked: 138pts
Returned: 121.5pts
P/L: -16.5pts

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