Champions Cup: Leinster fancied to reach final with Scarlets win

Leinster fly-half Johnny Sexton
Leinster fly-half Johnny Sexton can help fire his side into the Champions Cup final
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Simon Mail previews the Champions Cup semi-finals and thinks favourites Leinster will prove too strong for Scarlets...

"Leinster's form in the competition has been exceptional and they are the only team yet to lose in the tournament this season."

Leinster v Scarlets
Saturday, 15:30
Live on Sky Sports Action

Leinster are odds-on favourites to win the Champions Cup and the Irish side look the team to beat after ending Saracens' grip on the trophy in the quarter-finals. Their form in the competition has been exceptional and they are the only team yet to lose in the tournament this season.

Three-time champions Leinster eased through their pool winning all their matches. It was a hugely impressive feat from the team which included home and away victories over Premiership champions Exeter. Leinster defeated Saracens 30-19 in the last round and this success underlines they are the team to beat. Sitting top of their Pro14 Conference table, the double is a realistic target for a team featuring a cluster of Ireland's Grand Slam winners.

It has been a remarkable turnaround in the Champions Cup this season for Scarlets after losing their opening two games. But wins in their remaining four pool matches, including a 30-27 victory over former champions Toulon, sent them through as unlikely group winners. Wayne Pivac's side defeated La Rochelle 29-17 in the quarter-finals to seal their first semi-final since 2007.

Scarlets produced a stunning win over Leinster last season on their way to the Pro12 title so the visitors will not be short of belief. But Leinster are a different animal this year and have a great blend of youth and experience led by Johnny Sexton and captain Isa Nacewa. Scarlets are dangerous, as they showed pushing Leinster all the way in a 20-13 defeat in February, but Leinster are fancied to reach the final. All of their games at the Aviva Stadium have been won by no more than 12 points this season and another tight victory looks worth backing.

Racing 92 v Munster
Sunday, 15:15
Live on BT Sport 3

Munster are going to have to do it the hard way if they are to reach this year's final. The draw has handed them a trip to France to face Racing 92 and the side will go in as underdogs. But Munster will believe they can go all the way after their dramatic finish against Toulon in the last-eight saw them edge into the semi-finals.

Racing 92 are no strangers to their opponents after finishing behind them in their pool. The Top 14 side, who are third in their league, were beaten 14-7 away before edging to a 34-30 home win over Munster. In the quarter-finals, Racing 92 went to Clermont Auvergne and defeated their French rivals 28-17. World Cup winner Dan Carter has spoken about his ambition to bow out of top level rugby this season with Champions Cup success although he has started on the bench recently in European competition.

Munster topped their pool with four wins and a draw but were given a huge test by Toulon in the quarter-finals. The French side appeared to be heading through but with five minutes remaining Andrew Conway scored the converted try to snatch a 20-19 win at Thomond Park. The two-time champions, who are second in their Pro14 Conference, have won their last three games in all competitions.

The two games between the teams this season suggest it will be extremely tight although Racing 92 comes in as favourites. Munster have a superior record against their opponents though after winning twice in the pool stage last season. With the Irish side coming in with momentum and belief, it could be worth siding with the visitors to push them all the way. Munster can be backed with a four-point handicap advantage and this would have paid off in five of the six clashes against Racing in this competition over the last six years.

Follow Simon's bets on Twitter @watfordtipster

2017/18 Rugby P/L

Staked: 130pts
Returned: 121.5pts
P/L: -8.5pts

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