Barnstorming Bath Good Bet To Beat Leinster
Leinster v Bath
Leinster meeting Bath at the RDS at the knockout stage of the Champions Cup. The Blues aren’t in great form with their unpredicatability possibly being their downfall.
Leinster have been plagued by inconsistency all season. They are currently fifth in the Pro12 table, eight points off the pace set by Glasgow Warriors, and go into this game having won just one of their last five league matches. Europe has at least offered some respite. They dropped points against Harlequins and were held to a draw by Wasps in their final game, but topped Pool 2 to earn a home draw in the quarter-finals.
Bath’s European campaign got off to the worst possible start with back to back defeats against Glasgow and Toulouse, but four straight wins carried them to the top of Pool 4 and earned them their quarter-final spot.
They’ve also recovered their form domestically in recent weeks, bouncing back from a run of four defeats in five since the start of the year with victories over Sale and London Welsh.
Leinster will be without Rhys Ruddock, who has undergone surgery to fix a recurring arm injury but have twelve Ireland players back in their ranks. Rob Kearney, Devin Toner, Sean O’Brien, Jamie Heaslip, Jack McGrath and Mike Ross, who all sat out the Pro12 game with Glasgow, are certain to feature at some point.
Bath will be at full strength as they welcome back England internationals George Ford, Jonathan Joseph, Dave Attwood, Anthony Watson, Dave Wilson and Henry Thomas for this game, along with Francois Louw who was rested for the Aviva Premiership game against London Welsh at the weekend.
Head to Head
This will be the seventh time Bath have taken on Leinster, and the Irish side have the clear edge in the fixture, having won five of their six encounters.
Their last meeting came just over three years ago, in the Pool Stage of the 2011-12 Heineken Cup, when Leinster won narrowly at the Recreation Ground before securing a healthy 52-27 victory in the return game at Lansdowne Road.
Leinster also did the double over Bath in the 2004-05 Pool Stage, but Bath earned some revenge the following season, when they were again grouped in the same section. The English side lost at home, but pulled off a 22-19 win in Dublin.
With both sides at full strength, this promises to be an epic clash, with fascinating tussles all over the field, not least in the back row, where the competition between Sean O’Brien and Francois Louw will be one to savour.
With home advantage and considerable European experience, Leinster are the obvious favourites, but they have not been a side to lump on at short odds this season, and I can see them being turned over by opponents who will match them in the front eight and run at them with pace, power and invention. The value clearly lies with the visitors, so I’ll be backing Bath at 6/4 in the Match Handicap market.