Leinster chase historic double
May 25, 2012
Leinster will hope they have more to celebrate on Sunday © Getty Images
The final of the RaboDirect PRO12 takes place on Sunday with the league's top two sides going head-to-head for the title at Leinster's RDS ground.
Leinster secured their third Heineken Cup title in four years last Saturday with a dominant 42-14 win over Ulster at Twickenham and booked their place in the final thanks to a 42-14 win over Glasgow in the semis. But while they have reached the final in the past two seasons of the Celtic league, they failed to get over the final hurdle and fell to the Ospreys in 2010 and Munster last season. With two previous titles to their name in the competition, they have the experience and nous to do enough against the Ospreys, but unlike their Swansea counterparts, they have barely had a chance to draw breath in recent weeks.
Although the Ospreys would have wanted to have been contesting the Heineken Cup final last weekend, they failed to get through the group stages of the competition and have focused solely on the PRO12. They got past Munster in the semi-finals of the PRO12 a fortnight ago and although they have undergone massive change this season, they look to have hit top form at exactly the right moment.
Leinster dominated the PRO12 throughout the season, topping the league, but will be mindful of their previous failings in the final of the competition. The Dublin side have the benefit of a home final and will be looking to complete a remarkable double on the back of their triumph last weekend.
Leinster - Player to Watch: Shane Jennings would have been smarting after missing out on selection for last weekend's match with Ulster so expect a huge performance from the veteran flanker.
Leinster - Team News: Leo Cullen leads the team alongside Devin Toner in the second row but there are several changes to the pack from the side which beat Ulster with Heinke van der Merwe joining Ireland duo Sean Cronin and Mike Ross in the front row. No.8 Jamie Heaslip forms an experienced back row alongside Shane Jennings and Kevin McLaughlin with Sean O'Brien (knee) ruled out. The backline is unchanged from the side that started last weekend's Heineken Cup final with Eoin Reddan linking up with Jonathan Sexton at half back and Gordon D'Arcy continuing at centre alongside Brian O'Driscoll. Cian Healy (dead leg) will face a late fitness test, while All Black Brad Thorn is named amongst the replacements.
Ospreys - Player to Watch: It has to be that man Shane Williams. In his final match for the Ospreys and in professional rugby, he will inevitably leave his mark on the match.
Ospreys - Team News: Richard Fussell starts at fullback for the Ospreys with Hanno Dirksen alongside Shane Williams on the wing. Andrew Bishop and Ashley Beck are in the centres with Dan Biggar and Rhys Webb at half-back. Paul James, Richard Hibbard and Adam Jones get the nod in the front-row with Alun Wyn Jones alongside Ian Evans in the second-row. Ryan Jones, Justin Tipuric and Joe Bearman are in the back-row.
Key Battle: Rob Kearney has been Europe's best fullback this season but Richard Fussell has gone about his business with quiet enthusiasm for the Ospreys this term. It should be a key aspect of where the game's decided.
Trivia: Leinster are bidding to become just the fifth side, and the first since London Wasps in 2004, to become European and domestic champions in the same season.
Stats: Leinster have won only one of their last five encounters with Ospreys: 15-10 at the RDS on January 7, 2011.
Quote Unquote: "We're up on a high at the moment. But we have got to be realistic about how good the Ospreys are, so we are going to have to bring a better game than we did last weekend. They have won the last six matches and are on a bit of a roll. They've had a week off to recover also, so they are going to be in good shape." - Leinster flyer Isa Nacewa
"Previous games won't count for a thing on Sunday, it's all about the day and who handles the pressure the best."- Ospreys coach Steve Tandy
Prediction: Leinster will complete their double with a comfortable win over the Ospreys
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