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Match Preview: Leinster v Bulls

The first of the United Rugby Championship semi-finals kicks off tonight at Leinster host the Bulls at the RDS Arena in Ireland, kick off is at 20:35 if you're watching in SA. This is a game not to be missed as the most lethal attacking side in the competition comes up against the raw power of the Bulls pack, regardless of who you support and the result, tonight's fixture promises to be a nail biting affair.

Leinster finished atop the URC standings, even with the major names in their side plying their trade in the European Champions Cup for the latter part of the group stages. They had done enough early on in the season to take that risk, but it didn't harm them at all. Sending an understrength side to SA saw them drop two games, but not by much and since then they have toppled Munster as well as an emphatic win over Glasgow in the quarter-final weekend, where they scored 76 points.



Leinster are further bolstered this week by the return Tadhg Furlong to the starting line-up, arguably the best prop in the game, he is a menace with ball in hand and will keep the Bulls busy all night. Star flyhalf Johnny Sexton is also back, however he makes his return on the bench. A glance over the Leinster team will quickly reveal that they boast loads of international experience, with their entire loose trio all being starters for the national side and Josh van der Flier in particular being in fine form after being named European Championship player of the year last week.


The Bulls won't be intimidated however as they line up against a star studded team. They did so against the Sharks last week and you can bet they will be chomping at the bit to topple over another big dog. The Bulls are at home in play-off rugby as the Pretoria outfit currently houses every trophy on offer except the URC. They have been in this situation before and will take comfort in knowing they have what it takes to win. They will just have to ensure they leave it all out on the field tonight.

The Bulls too are bolstered by returning players as exciting back Kurt-Lee Arendse is included in the match day 23 after recovering from injury. Marcell Coetzee continues to captain the side and as always will be giving it his all for his team and in a bid to change the Bok coaches minds. The Bulls rely heavily on their pack to establish a strangle hold on the game and Ruan Nortje's large engine will be powering them up all night as he has played more minutes of rugby this year than any other player in the URC.


This is finals rugby and anything can happen. I do predict a win for Leinster as they have only dropped one game at home this year, a shaky loss to Ulster back in November. With that being said however, I am well aware that you can never write the Bulls off and I am sure Jake White and co have more than a few tricks up their sleeves as they look to have the luck of the Irish this evening.



TEAM SHEETS:

Bulls

  1. Gerhard Steenekamp

  2. Johan Grobbelaar

  3. Mornay Smith

  4. Walt Steenkamp

  5. Ruan Nortje

  6. Marcell Coetzee (c)

  7. Arno Botha

  8. Elrigh Louw

  9. Zak Burger

  10. Chris Smith

  11. Madosh Tambwe

  12. Harold Vorster

  13. Cornal Hendricks

  14. David Kriel

  15. Canan Moodie

  16. Bismarck Du Plessis

  17. Simphiwe Matanzima

  18. Robert Hunt

  19. Janko Swanepoel

  20. WJ Steenkamp

  21. Embrose Papier

  22. Morne Steyn

  23. Kurt-Lee Arendse

Leinster

  1. Andrew Porter

  2. Dan Sheehan

  3. Tadhg Furlong

  4. Joe Mccarthy

  5. James Ryan (c)

  6. Caelan Doris

  7. Josh van der Flier

  8. Jack Conan

  9. Jamison Gibson-Park

  10. Ross Byrne

  11. Rory O'loughlin

  12. Robbie Henshaw

  13. Garry Ringrose

  14. Jordan Larmour

  15. Jimmy O'Brien

  16. Sean Cronin

  17. Cian Healy

  18. Michael Ala'Alatoa

  19. Ross Malony

  20. Ryan Baird

  21. Luke Mcgrath

  22. Johnny Sexton

  23. Ciaran Frawley


Date: Friday, June 10

Venue: RDS Arena, Dublin

Kick-off: 19.35 (20.35 SA time; 18.35 GMT)

Referee: Andrea Piardi (Italy)

Assistant referees: Craig Evans (Wales), Gianluca Gnecchi (Italy)

TMO: Matteo Lipperini (Italy)

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