The white whale
For the third time in the history of European club rugby’s premiere competition, Munster and Leinster are looking down the barrel of a derby final. Leinster have already had the pleasure against Ulster in 2012, but to play the men in red would be something special indeed. Twice before this has happened that both teams are in opposing semi-finals and twice both teams have failed to go through. This fixture is the proverbial white whale for the IRFU.
Advertising the Game
At club level, it is safe to say that Ireland has the most rabid supporters. Cardiff in 2008 was turned into Munster City with an estimated 100,000 fans in situ with or without tickets. Bilbao could turn into Irishtown if results this weekend go our way.
Dream scenarios rarely come true but for the IRFU and the ECPR, an all Irish final taking place in a Tier Two nation is one.
Advertising is a costly business, businesses take all the free advertising they can get. Famously known the world over in a plethora of sports the Irish support is second to none and in rugby terms level with the Welsh. Bilbao will get the passion of a fiercely contentious rivalry with none of the tension and all of the passion.
A Family outing
Families from all over Ireland will descend on Bilbao bringing a carnival atmosphere. Munster fans and Leinster fans will sit in bars together and with strong Irish roots in the city of Bilbao, the final could outdo the Football World Cup Final in Russia. The ECPR must be licking their lips at the prospect.
To the Scarlets and Racing fans reading this please do not think I am looking past both teams, I am just outlining the pros of an All Ireland Final in a Tier Two nation.
A tale of two styles
Saturday’s match is for those fans who desire swashbuckling attack with both teams looking to go wide in the Aviva. Leinster will not take the Scarlets lightly but the return of Henshaw in the centre will be a massive boost. Scot Williams and Hadleigh Parks have been on fire but if they are stopped the Scarlets could struggle. Both packs have plenty of x-factor but Cronin needs to throw immaculately as not to give Barclay and Beirne opportunities to steal.
It promises to be high octane and full of bubbles.
Sunday’s match in Bordeaux will be a war of attrition. I refuse to describe it as physical because as most of us know rugby is physical at any level. There will be collisions, there will be rucks and there will be penalties. Munster know to win this game each of the 23 will have to play the game of their lives. Rugby history shows there is no better franchise at pulling out wins against the odds.
Munster fans will travel, will Racings? Support could be a deciding factor in this game. I expect The first half will take a while to settle but when it does it will be a game for the purists, expect Dan Carter to have a say from the bench along with Simon Zebo from the Munster bench.
One hell of a weekend
If the results go the Irish way, Bilbao is in for a rare treat. However the results go it promises to be one hell of a weekend.
Author: Donal Lucey
I’m born and raised in Mallow, a county town in Cork right at the centre of Munster I am into powerlifting and rugby. I played in the front row since I was 12, I’m happily married with one on the way, so looking for a new outlet that involves rugby.