As the Champions Cup final draws every closer and the excitement builds everyone is looking to predict what will be a tantalising tie. Saracens and Leinster have dominated this season’s Champions Cup and fully deserve to be in the final. But who has the better squad? Here at Last Word on Rugby we have made our combined XV.
1. Mako Vunipola
A really tough call to start things off. With three British and Irish Lions likely to be in both squads at loose-head the competition was fierce. However Vunipola just edges it. Although you could argue Healy’s scrummaging is marginally stronger, Vunipola’s work around the park is second to none. That is why he makes the team.
2. Jamie George
Two of Europe's form hookers, who both offer themselves willingly in the loose? will go toe-to-toe in what is sure to be a bruising encounter ?
Who has impressed more? ? pic.twitter.com/tvvyCY0zkw
— Heineken Champions Cup (@ChampionsCup) May 9, 2019
Two Saracens the in front row and this time it is George’s set-piece ability that edges it. He is phenomenally accurate at the line-out and a great scrimmager. Although Cronin’s carrying and tackling is also fantastic, George has done enough to just enough to edge out his opposite number.
3. Tadhg Furlong
The first Leinsterman on the list and it is no surprise that Furlong makes the side. This is no slant on Koch but Furlong is just in a different league. He is a weapon around the pitch but is equally destructive at the scrum.
4. Maro Itoje
Some had questioned Itoje’s form before this season. However his performances in this season’s champions cup have been sensational. He is a corner-stone of this Saracens side and really in the mould of the modern second-row.
5. James Ryan
Pretty much as above for James Ryan. The clash between these two youngsters is going to be something else. Ryan seems to go from strength to strength each game and he will be central to Leinster’s performance come Saturday.
— Leinster Rugby (@leinsterrugby) May 9, 2019
6. Rhys Ruddock
The blindside flank is not either teams’ most dazzling position. However they both have some quality operators. Rhodes and Ruddock are likely to line up here and expect them to both get through a mountain of work. Ruddock just edges this one due to his big match international experience.
7. Sean O’Brien
At his best Sean O’Brien is one of the best in the world. Although he has been plagued by injury he is still one of the best in his position. Expect him to rise to the occasion on Saturday and be a real thorn in Saracens’ side.
8. Billy Vunipola
Since coming back from injury Vunipola does not look to have missed a beat. He is back to his destructive and bulldozing self. It is going to be a great battle with Jack Conan but Vunipola probably just has the edge.
9. Ben Spencer
As Richard Wigglesworth looks set to retire at the end of the season you could forgive Saracens fans for being a bit nervous. However Spencer has shown this season with some sensational performances that he is more than capable of stepping up. His kicking game is second to none and could play a pivotal role at the weekend.
10. Owen Farrell
It is very difficult to leave out the World Player of the Year in Johnny Sexton. However he has not been at his best during 2019 and has been troubled by injury. It promises to be a dream matchup between the two fly-halves but Farrell is currently in the superior form.
A dream match-up for all Rugby fans ?♂️
Whose nerves of steel will hold when the pressure cranks up? ? https://t.co/ORDbNzKydX
— Heineken Champions Cup (@ChampionsCup) May 9, 2019
11. James Lowe
At the time of writing it remains to be seen whether Lowe will miss out due to the IRFU’s overseas players rules. It would be such a shame if he does as he showed against Toulouse in the semi-final. He deserves to be on the pitch on Saturday and if he does he could have a real impact.
12. Robbie Henshaw
Since his move to Leinster, Henshaw had developed into a class act. He is a really high exceptional player these days and expect him to show his pace and power on Saturday. With Brad Barritt possibly set to miss out with an injury this is an area Leinster could get real ascendency.
13. Gary Ringrose
Another high class operator in the centres but Alex Lozowski is not far behind. However Ringrose’s international experience is why he gets in. He has the ability to make something from nothing and he will be looking to sprinkle some magic on the highest stage of all.
14. Liam Williams
Having the Lions fullback playing on your wing really tells you something about this Saracens side. Williams has all the skills as well as an incredible competitive spirit. He is a handful in any team he plays for so expect him to shine in order to win his first Champions Cup.
15. Alex Goode
He has been there and done it all before. Overlooked by England but Goode will not want to be overlooked this weekend. He is a real class individual who will need to bring all of his experience to best his opposite number. Leinster are likely to line up with Rob Kearney or Jordan Larmour at fullback which will be a great match up. However Goode just edges this one.
Concluding Thoughts on the Champions Cup Final
Eight Saracens and Seven Leinstermen.
If that does not tell you how evenly matched this final is going to be, nothing will. It is the best two sides in Eurovision going at it in the biggest club match of the season. Whoever walks out with the Champions Cup trophy will be a worthy winner; but calling that winner is just too tough right now.
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