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Rupert Wyman 14th May 2010 - 17:38

League leaders Leinster to progress to the final

Leinster won the Magners League regular season by three points so should arguably feel aggrieved that they have not already been crowned as the Magners League champions.

However, due to the introduction of the play-offs they still need to win two more matches to be crowned this year's champions.

They have the comfort of knowing that if they defeat their fierce rivals Munster at the RDS Arena then they will also play the Grand Final on their home ground.

Leinster have a perfect record at home this season in the league with nine wins from nine matches and I fully expect them to dispatch Munster and reach the final. Therefore I will be backing the regular season winners at 1/2 to win in 80 minutes.

Michael Cheika's side defeated the Red Army both home and away in the Magners League and look a decent price to make it a hat-trick of wins over their rivals this term.

Both sides will be more desperate than normal to claim the Magners League title following their disappointing quarter-final exits in the Heineken Cup.

Leinster have been boosted by the surprise return from injury of Jonathan Sexton whilst Munster have their own good news in the shape of the returns of Doug Howlett and Keith Earls.

Both sides are without their respective captains in Leo Cullen and Paul O'Connell while another lock Malcolm O'Kelly is set to retire at the end of the season so if Leinster fail to win it will be his final appearance.

However, if things go as predicted then the veteran lock should have another match to take part in, the Grand Final.

I expect Leinster to cover the handicap of five points and therefore at 10/11 they are the bet for me on the main handicap line.

A value selection could be Leinster -10 at 6/4 in one of the alternative handicap markets. The corresponding fixture in the regular season saw the hosts run out 30-0 winners and while I believe the semi-final will be a lot closer the ten-point handicap does look a good bet.

If Sexton hadn't have recovered from his injury I doubt I would have been so keen on the bet but he brings an extra dimension to Leinster's play. Plus his half-back combination with Eoin Reddan is first class.

Despite fancying Leinster for the win I think that one of Munster's returning players, Earls, is the best looking bet in the try scoring markets.

Brian O'Driscoll's likely long-term successor for Ireland is priced at 14/1 to score first or 11/4 anytime. The preference though would be to be on the latter.

BOD is 11/1 and 7/4 in the same markets but his centre partner Gordon D'Arcy at 14/1 and 5/2 looks a much better value punt.

The match, as is always the case between Leinster and Munster, will be hard fought but Leinster's superior ability and vocal home support will be key in seeing them quite rightly reaching the Grand Final after topping the regular season table.



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