Glasgow Warriors head coach Dave Rennie knows better than most about the respective merits of this Saturday’s protagonists in the Heineken Champions Cup final.
After two pool defeats and a quarter-final hammering by Saracens this season, the New Zealander knows to his cost the dominant physicality that the English powerhouse can impose on an opposition.
And it was no different in 2017-18, Rennie’s first campaign at Scotstoun, when Leinster recorded home and away pool wins over their Guinness PRO14 rivals with an 88-28 aggregate.
Saturday’s meeting at St James’s Park, Newcastle, pits Europe’s two best clubs of the last five years on a collision course and former Chiefs head coach Rennie found it an extremely difficult game to call.
“It’s a real arm-wrestle. You have two sides who are combative and can hang onto the ball forever. There are a lot of international players.
“We are on three losses to Saracens, but we felt that if we could play at a tempo then we could stress their big men because we didn’t think they would be conditioned as well as us.
Leinster are different because they are prepared to go 40 phases, an inch at a time. I’m not convinced they will change dramatically, but they can play because they have some pretty good athletes.
“I think it is hard to call. Last year I always thought Leinster would win but now you have two giants of Europe and it’s a fitting final. If any side can roll Saracens, it’s Leinster.”
Also speaking on Sunday as PRO14 semi-finalist coaches faced the media, Leinster backs coach and former fly-half Felipe Contepomi was looking forward to the showdown between number 10s Johnny Sexton and Owen Farrell although he was at pains to point out the final was about more than just the playmakers.
“Johnny and Farrell are two of the best out-halves in Europe and two of the best in the world. But we are seeing two of the best scrum-halves, two of the best centres and full-backs and so on. Two of the best tightheads, two of the best looseheads. You are seeing two of the best teams in Europe.
“Leinster and Saracens are bigger than Sexton and Farrell. They are very influential in their teams but if one of them takes it personally I think it could be a weakness. It’s two very good teams playing each other. Whoever plays better as a team will be the one who wins.”