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Wednesday, 12 December, 2018

Scarlets' attacking flair should make for close contest

Rhys Patchell looks tryscorer value against 2-9 Leinster

Rhys Patchell scored two tries for the Scarlets against Glasgow
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European Champions Cup semi-final
Sky Sports Action, 3.30pm Saturday

Ireland sealed a Six Nations grand slam last month and it would be some statement if the domestic season were to end with an all-Irish Champions Cup final.

Leinster and Munster have been kept apart by the semi-final draw, and BoyleSports go 15-8 that the pair meet in the showcase in Bilbao next month.

While Munster have to overcome a star-studded Racing 92 side in Paris on Sunday, bookmakers believe Leinster have the easier task against Scarlets at Dublin's Aviva Stadium and have handed the Welsh outfit a double-figure start.

Leinster are three-time European champions while this is unfamiliar territory for Scarlets, but this still looks set to be a fascinating and entertaining contest which could be a lot closer than the prices suggest.

These teams have not met in European competition for five years but the Scarlets sprung a shock in last season's Pro14 semi-final, coming away from the RDS Arena with a 27-15 victory, while this season's league meetings were tight, although they were played during the Six Nations so without both teams' internationals.

It's easy to argue that following their defeat last season Leinster will be well warned about the threat Scarlets pose, but the Pro14 champions are playing a brand of confident attacking rugby that is hard to resist at times.

They overran Bath at the Rec and were edged out by just one point in Toulon in the pool stage and looked assured during a hotly contested semi-final against La Rochelle.

Scarlets line up with Rhys Patchell at full-back and Dan Jones at fly-half, with Leigh Halfpenny on the wing, and that line-up offers a variety of attacking threats.

Patchell bagged two tries in his last outing - a home win over Glasgow - and is a big price to cross again in what could prove a high-scoring encounter.

The key to Leinster holding out the attacking threat of the Scarlets could be their experienced back three of Rob Kearney, Fergus McFadden and Isa Nacewa - Jordan Larmour starts on the bench - and their hard-working back row.

Leinster should have too much in their ranks but will be happy with any kind of victory and this could be a close one.

Cardiff are four-point favourites against Pau at the Arms Park in the Challenge Cup semi-final (Sky Sports Action, 1pm) while their are two rescheduled Pro14 fixtures (Zebre v Ospreys, S4C 5.45pm & Ulster v Glasgow, BBC NI & Scotland, 6.05pm). 

Leinster to win by one to 12 points
1pt 7-4 bet365
R Patchell to score a try
1pt 5-1 bet365, Betfair

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These teams have not met in European competition for five years but the Scarlets sprung a shock in last season's Pro14 semi-final
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