Champions Cup: Leinster v Bath Preview

Written by Darry Worthington for @Hollywoodbets. Follow them both on Twitter and Facebook now!

Leinster Rugby v Bath Rugby | Saturday 16 January | Aviva Stadium | 19:25

Bath will be looking to apply the pressure on second-placed Toulon by defeating Leinster this coming Saturday. Leinster are already out of the running for the next round having only managed to pick up two points from the four Champions Cup fixtures they’ve played thus far.

With Wasps taking on Toulon, a win for Bath would throw the group wide open heading into the final group stage round.

To Win (80 Mins)
Leinster 9/20
Draw 21/1
Bath 18/10

The Irish club has endured a torrid Champions Cup campaign and will probably welcome the end of the group phase. While they still have some pride to play for, it’s going to be a tough task for them to get up for this one.

With Leinster currently occupying second place in the Pro 12 (their domestic competition) and Champions Cup knockout round qualification now impossible, I’m positive that the Pro 12 will now be the sides primary concern. With this in mind, I think Leinster mentor, Leo Cullen, may opt to give his youngsters and fringe players a run this weekend.

If he does opt to field a second-string fifteen, it’s likely to feature two hugely impressive young guns in the form of Dan Leavy and Cathal Marsh. Both players are intriguing prospects. Leavy is a tearaway openside flank who tackles like a Trojan and enters a ruck like he was born in Brakpan – head first. While Marshal is a classy ten, with an educated boot and an eye for a gap.

Ironically, the inexperienced youngsters may be able to give Bath more of a tough time than their more established colleagues.

Bath have really impressed me in recent weeks and despite going down by three points to Toulon at the Stade Mayol last weekend, they’re still in with a shout of finishing second in Pool 5.

While their centre pairing of Craig Eastmond and Jonathon Josephs put in great performances against Toulon, the man who impressed me the most was flyhalf George Ford. The Bath pivot had an absolute blinder. He was great with ball in hand and shut down opposite number, Quade Cooper, before the former Queensland Red could shift the ball to his dangerous outside backs. Ford also managed to slot two well-timed drop goals which ensured his side would be within a try of winning the game for the full 80 minutes.

I think Bath will have drawn a lot of confidence from that performance. As I mentioned in last week’s preview, the Stade Mayol is a tough place to travel to. The fans are hostile and Toulon generally up their game at home. To lose by only three points is quite the feat. The narrow losing margin also meant that Bath picked up a vital losing bonus point. The point may actually prove crucial to them advancing to the next round.

If they can replicate last weekend’s determined display then they should be able to get the full five-point haul from this weekend’s fixture.

Verdict: Bath 18/10
Once again, I’m going to back Bath to win away from home. They have been in sensational form and with no fresh injury concerns, I can see them trouncing Leinster. At 18/10, this is my best bet for this weekend’s European rugby.  

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