Cronin & Maitland fit for Champions Cup final

Sean Cronin (right) helped Leinster beat Saracens in last year's quarter-finals
European Champions Cup final
Venue: St James' Park Date: Saturday, 11 May Kick-off: 17:00 BST
Coverage: Live score updates on BBC local radio and on the BBC Sport website

Hooker Sean Cronin has been passed fit to start for holders Leinster in Saturday's European Champions Cup final against Saracens at St James' Park.

Cronin has recovered from a calf injury as Leinster, aiming for a record fifth title, are unchanged from the semi-final win over Toulouse.

Sean Maitland returns from injury as Saracens seek a third title.

Mark McCall makes two changes from the semi-final with Will Skelton joining George Kruis in the second row.

England forward Maro Itoje replaces Michael Rhodes - who is out with a back injury - at blindside flanker alongside Jackson Wray and Billy Vunipola in the back row.

EPCR European Player of the Year nominees Alex Goode and Mako Vunipola start at full-back and loose-head prop for Saracens.

England captain Owen Farrell is at fly-half and his international team-mate Jamie George starts at hooker, while Brad Barritt will lead the side from the midfield.

Rob Kearney will start for Leinster at full-back with Jordan Larmour and James Lowe occupying the wing berths.

Tadhg Furlong will be making his 100th appearance in a Leinster pack that also includes Sean O'Brien, who will be playing his final European game for the province before his move to London Irish.

Leinster beat Racing 92 to win the Champions Cup last year

Sarries have won all eight of their Champions Cup matches this season and are looking to add to the titles they won in 2016 and 2017.

The final comes at the end of a trying two months in which Saracens' management of the salary cap has come under scrutiny and Billy Vunipola defended Israel Folau's controversial social media post.

Leinster have not lost a European final in five attempts, having won the Champions Cup four times and Challenge Cup once, and head coach Leo Cullen does not want his side to lose sight of that.

"It is a fine balance, you can't be just thinking about the opposition," he said.

"You need to understand what makes Leinster a hard team to play against and what it took to get us to a final in the first place."

Both Saracens and Leinster could still win domestic titles too, with the Premiership and Pro14 semi-finals taking place later this month.

"These games turn on small moments, it might be a magical moment," said McCall. "We've got to be ready to take advantage of those."

Match stats

  • This will be the fourth meeting between Leinster and Saracens in the Champions Cup, the three previous clashes were all won by the Irish province including a 30-19 victory in their only knockout encounter, in the quarter-final last season.
  • Should Saracens win the Champions Cup it would be the ninth time an English club has lifted the trophy, more than any other nation. However, a Leinster win would represent the eighth win by an Irish province - drawing them level with England and France.
  • Leinster have won 16 of their 17 tournament matches since the beginning of the 2017/18 season, their only defeat in that run coming by a single point against Toulouse in this season's pool stage.
  • No side has averaged more tries per game than Leinster or Saracens in the competition this season (4, level with Racing 92), with both finalists scoring 32 times in their eight matches.

Line-ups

Leinster: R Kearney; Larmour, Ringrose, Henshaw, Lowe; Sexton (capt), McGrath; Healy, Cronin, Furlong, Toner, Ryan, Fardy, O'Brien, Conan.

Replacements: Tracy, J McGrath, Bent, Ruddock, Deegan, O'Sullivan, R Byrne, O'Loughlin.

Saracens: Goode; Williams, Lozowski, Barritt (c), Maitland; Farrell, Spencer; M Vunipola, George, Lamositele, Skelton, Kruis, Itoje, Wray, B Vunipola.

Replacements: Gray, Barrington, Koch, Isiekwe, Burger, Wigglesworth, Tompkins, Strettle.

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Source: BBC Rugby Union News

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By adamreeves / Administrator, bbp_keymaster on May 10, 2019