Big European Preview: Leinster vs Saracens Men
Saracens travel to Dublin on Saturday to take on top seeds Leinster in a mouth-watering Heineken Champions Cup quarter-final at the Aviva Stadium.
The Irish province won silverware on their last outing, defeating Ulster 27-5 to retain the Pro14 title for a third consecutive campaign while a young Sarries side scored five tries on their way to a comprehensive victory of Exeter Chiefs.
Here’s everything you need to know ahead of this weekend’s last eight meeting.
Leinster vs Saracens
Date: Saturday 19th September
Competition: Heineken Champions Cup quarter-final
Venue: Aviva Stadium, Dublin
Referee: Pascal Gauzere (FRA) Assistants: George Clancy (IRE), Joy Neville (IRE) TMO: Olly Hodges (IRE)
Saracens: Daly, Lewington, Taylor, Barritt (c), Maitland, Goode, Wigglesworth; Mako Vunipola, George, Koch, Itoje, Swinson, Rhodes, Wray, Billy Vunipola. Reps: Woolstencroft, Barrington, Clarey, Hunter-Hill, Clark, Davies, Manu Vunipola, Morris.
Leinster: Larmour, Keenan, Ringrose, Henshaw, Lowe, Sexton (c), McGrath; Healy, Cronin, Porter, Toner, Ryan, Doris, Connors, Conan. Reps: Kelleher, E Byrne, Bent, Baird, Van der Flier, Gibson-Park, R Byrne, O’Loughlin.
Since suffering defeat in the 2019 Heineken Champions Cup final to Saracens, Leinster have gone from strength to strength.
Leo Cullen’s side have won 25 out of 25 matches and lifted the Pro14 last weekend, winning the competition for a third consecutive season.
The Irish province have reached the knockout stage of the Heineken Champions Cup for a 16th time which is only bettered by Munster and Toulouse (18 each). They have won eight of their last nine last-eight fixtures, five of which have been against Gallagher Premiership opponents.
Leinster have won the European Cup four times, lifting the trophy three times in four seasons from 2009 to 2012 before adding their fourth title in 2018.
LAST TIME OUT
Leinster 10-20 Saracens
Saturday 11th May 2019
Heineken Champions Cup final
St James’ Park
Saracens produced a brilliant comeback against Leinster to win the third Europe title of the club’s history.
The Irish side held a 10-point lead until the 39th minute but Sean Maitland’s try cancelled out Tadhg Furlong’s opener.
That momentum followed into the second half and Owen Farrell kicked a penalty just before the hour before converting a Billy Vunipola close-range effort.
It completed a total of 20 unanswered points for Sarries whose dominant display saw them end their 2018/19 European campaign unbeaten on their way to becoming the first English side to win three Champions Cups.
A WORD FROM BOTH CAMPS
Leinster head coach Leo Cullen: “Saracens on their day, we know the threats that they have, they’ve had some changes but they still have such quality throughout their team, some world class players in there so we need to make sure we’re peaking week on week basically at the moment.”
Saracens Director of Rugby Mark McCall: “It’s definitely going to be a little bit different (to the team that played last season’s final) but the core of the 23 is identifiable as a team who have played a lot of knockout rugby over the past five years.”
HEAD TO HEAD – JAMES RYAN VS MARO ITOJE
- Leinster and Saracens have met on four previous occasions in Europe with the Irish province winning three times. This will be the third knockout stage game between the clubs, Leinster winning the quarter-final clash in 2018 while Saracens claimed victory in last season’s final.
- Saracens have won seven of their nine quarter-final fixtures in the Heineken Champions Cup, and their 78% win rate is the joint best of any club to reach the last eight on at least three occasions (Munster also 78%).
- Leinster have scored eight tries in the opening 20 minutes this season, more than any other side and five more than Saracens (3) who have scored the fewest of any quarter-finalist in that period.
- Leinster have used just 31 players in the Heineken Champions Cup this season, fewer than any other side and nine fewer than Saracens (40) who have used the most of any of the quarter-finalists.
- Saracens allowed their opponents just 28 offloads during the pool stage, the fewest of any club.
- Jackson Wray, who will make his 250th appearance for the club on Saturday, was the only player to feature in each of Saracens’ six pool matches this season. In contrast, Leinster had 15 players to feature in every game, more than any other club.