The Heineken Champions Cup is the annual rugby union competition for teams in the top six nations in Europe. The tournament is run by the European Professional Club Rugby and is the 24th season of pan-European professional club rugby competition.
A total of 20 teams from the three major domestic and regional leagues in Europe participated in the tournament. Nineteen of those teams qualified based on their league performance. The 20th slot is awarded to one of the finalists in the Champions or Challenge Cup, in a stipulated order.
The twenty teams are then seeded and then grouped into five pools with each pool having four teams each. The teams in the same pool play each other twice-one at home and one away from home. The five pool winners are then joined by the three highest scoring pool runners-up in the knockout quarter-finals stage.
The 8 teams are ranked according to points and the #1 team meets #8 while #2 faces #7 and #3 takes on #6. On the other hand, the 4th and 5th ranked teams also square off in the last of four quarterfinal games. The four winners play in the semifinals and the remaining two teams will play in the Heineken Champions Cup Final on May 11, 2019, at the St. James Park in Newcastle, England.
Saracens topped the pool stage with 28 points while Leinster finished at #3 with 25 points. Saracens blasted Glasgow 56-27 in the quarterfinals before defeating Munster in the semifinals 32-16. On the other hand, Leinster squeaked past Ulster 21-18 in the first knockout round before disposing of #7 Toulouse 30-12 in the final.
- Leinster +100
- Saracens -140
- Draw +2000
- Leinster +0.5 (+100)
- Saracens -0.5 (-125)
As early as October, the smart money was on Leinster vs Saracens disputing the Champions Cup final. That’s what we’ll be getting on May 11th. Leinster’s 30-12 win over Toulouse at the Aviva Stadium was as impressive as Saracens’ 32-16 beating of Munster in Coventry. No question, we have the two best sides in Europe contesting the title in Newcastle and we expect the final to be very competitive and thunderous.
Leinster leads their head to head match-up 3-0 although the 2010-11 pool victories have little to no relevance. Leinster beat Saracens 30-19 in last year’s quarterfinals but that win happened at the Aviva Stadium and Saracens was probably suffering from a post-Lions hangover. As far as rugby betting is concerned, Saracens are the favorite to win the Heineken Champions Cup. But it’s not going to be easy against a team seeking history.
This year’s showdown will not only take place at the neutral St. James Park but comes at the back of the English victory over Dublin during the opening day of the Six Nations. Didn’t we see the effect of that during the rest of the tournament? More importantly, Saracens will have revenge on their minds and they are in good form, judging from their masterful win over Munster.
Saracens will also have Billy Vunipola back. Vunipola didn’t play for them last year and he’s a very important player for them. On the other side, Johnny Sexton was excellent in directing Leinster around the pitch in the semifinals. Sexton’s 12-point haul made him the man of the match in what was his first appearance for Leinster during this calendar year and his first game since the Six Nations.
Aerial bombardment set the tone for Saracens during their semi-final game against Munster. With the power they have on their team, it would be hard to beat them if you’re just constantly defending. To beat Saracens, Leinster must take it to them by firing shots and managing possessions. No doubt it’s going to be a tough challenge for Leinster but they are champions for a reason.
Leinster’s surgical disposal of four-time winner Toulouse is equally impressive. But Leinster will have a bigger motivation as they are aiming to become the first team to win five Heineken Champions Cup titles. Leinster looked good against Toulouse but they may not have even played their best and that’s what’s scary.