Oct 12, 2018
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Champions Cup: Leinster face problem from Racing & Saracens for 2019 title

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Champions Cup: Leinster face problem from Racing & Saracens for 2019 title

Leinster’s 2018 triumph adopted successes in 2009, 2011 and 2012

After ending backside of their pool two seasons beforehand, Leinster accomplished a outstanding turnaround by lifting the Champions Cup for a record-equalling fourth time in Bilbao in May.

Their defence begins on Friday as they entertain Wasps on this season’s match opener.

English champions Saracens, who received the Champions Cup in 2016 and 2017, clearly have the pedigree to problem for European rugby’s greatest prize once more.

Racing 92, defeated finalists final 12 months, now have British and Irish Lions Finn Russell and Simon Zebo amongst their ranks.

And Exeter and big-spending Montpellier even have huge aspirations.

However do any of them have what it takes to wrest the title away from the Professional14 champions?

Jamie Heaslip, who called time on a vastly profitable profession as Leinster and Eire quantity eight in February, joined former Lions, England and Harlequins wing Ugo Monye and BBC rugby union reporter Chris Jones to run the rule over the champions, challengers and ones to observe on this season’s competitors.

Who’s going to win?

Former England coach Stuart Lancaster has proved an enormous hit working beneath Leo Cullen at Leinster

Jamie: Leinster – The best way senior coach Stuart Lancaster has the staff enjoying is a method forward of a few of their rivals. They go up in opposition to some groups which can be lots larger than them bodily however transfer the ball so shortly from the purpose of contact that the large groups are usually not capable of set their line of defense.

They play and practice at such a quick tempo, I do not know if anybody else is doing that. It will likely be robust however the guys are fairly used to that and they’re going to relish it. They won’t get cocky or conceited, they’re a extremely good group with a fair higher tradition.

Ugo: Leinster – They’ll win their pool and, with a house quarter-final, they’re solely a few video games away from being again within the last.

It’s a barely completely different expertise this 12 months with everybody chasing them, however they’ve an excessive amount of expertise and power in depth, particularly with so a lot of their gamers peaking to struggle for a spot within the Eire World Cup squad.

Chris: Exeter – Rob Baxter’s males have a difficult pool, however I feel they may win it and march on from there. Have they got the firepower and sophistication to beat Europe for the primary time?

Who else are contenders for the title?

A reported wage of £700,000-a-year was a part of the package deal to lure Russell to Racing from Glasgow

Jamie: I’m afraid of Racing 92. The additions they’ve made in the summertime are robust and so they even have Jordan Joseph, who’s simply 18 and was a monster quantity eight in France’s World Underneath-20 Championship win. What they’re creating there may be thrilling.

Ugo: The massive query round Saracens is are they capable of juggle the Premiership and Champions Cup? After doing the double in 2016, one thing has given on both the continental or home entrance in every of their final two campaigns.

They’ve an unimaginable squad, although, and so they’ve made historical past at the beginning of the season, changing into the primary staff to begin a Premiership campaign with five straight bonus-point wins.

Racing 92 have began the season properly, chalking up some huge wins in opposition to Castres, Stade Francais and Toulon within the Prime 14, and have added to an already first rate squad. Simon Zebo is having fun with life in Paris and has scored six tries already.

And Montpellier, with the backing of their proprietor Mohed Altrad, will probably be zeroing in on the one trophy they actually need. They’ve all the time acquired an opportunity with Fijian Nemani Nadolo on the wing. They’ve persistently threatened and, after disappointing pool-stage exits in every of the final two seasons, you’re feeling they could have additional focus this season.

Nadolo completed prime of the statistics for metres made (553), defenders crushed (38) and clear breaks (16) in final 12 months’s competitors. He and Ospreys’ Dan Evans topped the try-scoring charts with six every

Chris: Given the depth of their squad and their profitable expertise, Leinster ought to be clear favourites to repeat final 12 months’s success. Identical will be mentioned of Saracens. Each have a high-class enjoying and training employees and can absolutely progress into the latter levels.

Final 12 months’s crushed finalists Racing 92 will head the French problem, with earlier giants resembling Toulon struggling and Clermont not even certified. Elsewhere, Vern Cotter’s Montpellier have the instruments to go all the way in which.

Ugo’s prediction

Chris’ prediction

5 gamers to observe

James Lowe (Leinster)

Lowe has performed for Maori All Blacks on 5 events, scoring six tries

Jamie: Lowe had a protracted season after making the swap from the southern hemisphere, however he’s coming in contemporary and firing this marketing campaign. He’ll thrive within the free-flowing atmosphere that coach Lancaster is encouraging. He’s a giant man who can end. Give him a metre of area and he’s going to run straight over you, however he additionally has the talent to go spherical you or get the offload away as a substitute.

Leone Nakarawa (Racing 92)

Leone Nakarawa performed for Glasgow earlier than making the swap to Racing

Ugo: Nakarawa was named third in a rundown of the world’s 100 best players