A Look At Leinster In The PRO12 This Season
With three games still left to play in the PRO12, Leinster are the bookies favourites.
Since the competition broke to knock outs back in 2010 there have been seven finals, and Leinster have been in six of them. But they’ve lost four of those six finals, so they’ll be taking their favourites status with a pinch of salt.
Beware the Welsh
Leinster have only won the competition twice since it reverted to knock outs. So they actually have the same record as Ospreys. The Welsh team beat Leinster in the RDS, of all places, on both occasions to win the tournament. And they’re snapping at Munster and Leinster’s heels right now in third place on the table, with fellow Welsh team, Scarlets, in fourth.
So another Welsh upset on home turf in the Semis is an ominous possibility. Though based on form it’s unlikely-to throw in a little bit of hubris.
Europe is calling
Leinster are pretty happy to already be in the Semis of the other competition, and particularly pleased with the confident route they took to get there. A final would be nice, and they’d fancy themselves if they managed to get past Clermont. But the bookies have them the longest shot of the semi finalists for a reason, and there’s no shame in losing to Clermont away.
They have to throw the kitchen sink at the French, but it’s important to bear in mind that Leinster has never been able to marry European and Pro 12 success. Progress in one competition seems to lead to a setback in the other.
Who needs Europe anyway?
Leinster’s two Pro 12 wins from knock outs have come when their European/Heineken Cup form wasn’t great, like in 2012 when they didn’t get out of their European group. The other was in 2013, when they were well beaten by Toulon in the quarter. However, when they got to the European Semi Finals in 2015-and really should have got revenge against Toulon-they didn’t even make the knock outs in the Pro 12.
In fact, Leinster only got its two Pro 12 titles in the years after the 3 European victories. So if you wanted to make a stat out if it, it would be this: Leinster haven’t won the Pro 12 any year they’ve done better than the quarters in Europe.
(Amlin discounted here.)
What about their opponents this weekend?
On the other side of the coin, of their four final losses, three have been to teams who beat them in the Pro 12 final but didn’t get out of their own European/Heineken groups that year. Or, in the case of Connacht, weren’t even in one to begin with. Though Leinster didn’t set Europe on fire that year either.
So there’s certainly a case to be made that exiting Europe early can help your Pro 12 chances.
So to stick it all together…
Leinster are likely finalists, but can come unstuck at home to the Welsh. And they could lose a home Final due to expending too much energy in Europe. Unless they come up against Munster that is, who will be just as beat up as them, or even worse, depending on how they go.