Leinster sounded a massive warning to the rest of the United Rugby Championship (URC) pretenders when they blew away European Rugby Champions Cup (ERCC) defending champs Toulouse in the competition semifinals over the past weekend.
Toulouse were expected to give Leinster a stern test of their credentials, but were instead brushed aside 40-17, as the Irish side firmly announced themselves as favourites for the title, with the final against La Rochelle set to be played next weekend.
The performance signalled an ominous warning to the URC hopefuls who are hoping to dethrone the competition’s most decorated team.
With Leinster having already secured top spot on the log, sealing themselves home play-offs all the way to the final, they are expected to cotton wool their squad and send out a weakened team for their final pool game against Munster this coming weekend.
If Leinster do play an under-strength team and if Munster can pick up a win that could see them secure second place on the log, it would be Leinster’s third successive loss in the competition after their under-strength team was beaten by the Stormers and Sharks in their previous games.
However, the full-strength Leinster team is a completely different beast, as shown in their demolition of Toulouse, and with home ground advantage through to the final, it has to be asked who can stop them from claiming another title?
Most successful team
Leinster are the most successful team in the URC, and all its iterations, with eight titles, double the number of the second most successful team, Ospreys.
However, it’s only been over the last few years that they have become the juggernaut they currently are, winning the last four titles in a row.
The South African teams will be hoping that they can bring something different to the table to try and topple the defending champs, however only the Bulls have faced a full-strength Leinster team so far, and were comfortably beaten 31-3 in Ireland back in September last year.
The Lions then lost to a Leinster side without their Irish internationals who were on Six Nations duty, while the Sharks and Stormers tight home wins over Leinster were against a “B” team, with their stars left at home to rest ahead of the ERCC play-offs.
Three South African teams will play in the quarterfinals in the coming weeks, namely the Bulls, Sharks and Stormers, irrespective of what happens in their final round robin games this weekend.