The prospect of an All-Ireland Rabodirect Pro 12 final may have died last night, but the bookmaking firms and the wider betting community still expect the country to be represented in the competition decider, as Leinster are clear favourites to progress in tonight's battle with the Glasgow Warriors at the RDS. However while Leinster have been blessed with relatively good health throughout this season, the effort involved in fighting battles on two separate fronts is taking a toll and perhaps their biggest advantage coming into this fixture was their ability to rest players for the final round of the regular season against the Dragons. Playing at home will of course be welcome, but rest is a valuable asset at this time of year.
The handicap betting market this week makes Leinster favourites by either twelve or thirteen points, depending on your bookmaker of choice. The one exception to this rule is Ladbrokes, who bet 10/11 each of two off an eleven point start for Glasgow - so the Magic Sign should be seeing plenty of Leinster money this week and little or none for the visitors.
So thus, here at betting.com, we ask ourselves - why have the rugby gurus at Rayners Lane come to this conclusion?
Rob Kearney and Brian O'Driscoll both miss out, with a view to having them fully fit for the big game against Ulster next weekend and while Eoin O'Malley and David Kearney are hardly inadequate replacements by any measure, Rob Kearney has been at the heart of a lot of Leinster's best back play this season. Recently voted IRUPA Player of the Year by his fellow professionals in Ireland, he and Nacewa have been the real magical sparks in this team and it would be foolish to preclude the fact that his absence may be influential.
The Ladbrokes betting brains are undoubtedly allowing too for the fact that Glasgow have the best defensive record in the league and conceded single figure totals in four of their last five league matches. Of course there is no comparison between games against teams like Connacht, Treviso, Aironi and Cardiff and playing against Leinster away from home, but it's still a good indication of the robust health of the Warriors' defensive structure. If you can keep a team like Connacht to three points, we're betting you can keep Leinster to twenty three. Secondly, Glasgow also were the bane of accumulator bettors earlier in the Spring when they held Leinster to a 10-10 draw, busting coupons all across the land.
Leinster will be rested and they have picked a quite "horses for courses" selection, with Devin Toner coming in to shore up what has been a creaky lineout at times this year. Certainly tests of lineout integrity don't come much tougher than competing with Ali Kellock and Richie Gray, so in that regard it's quite surprising that Kevin McLaughlin hasn't been drafted into the back row to offer a third option.
Issues like greater fluidity at half back, the potency of the Leinster back division and the form of their front row are likely to get Leinster over the line in this one, but our view of the handicap betting market is that thirteen points is a big head start and one that won't be easily covered. Opposing the European champions and competition favourites is not something that we do lightly, but even so our bet for this game is to take Glasgow plus thirteen.
Leinster: 15 Isa Nacewa, 14 Fergus McFadden, 13 Eoin O'Malley, 12 Gordon D'Arcy, 11 David Kearney, 10 Jonathan Sexton, 9 Eoin Reddan, 8 Jamie Heaslip (capt), 7 Shane Jennings, 6 Sean O'Brien, 5 Devin Toner, 4 Brad Thorn, 3 Mike Ross, 2 Richardt Strauss, 1 Cian Healy.
Replacements: 16 Sean Cronin, 17 Heinke van der Merwe, 18 Nathan White, 19 Leo Cullen, 20 Kevin McLaughlin, 21 Isaac Boss, 22 Ian Madigan, 23 Andrew Conway.
Glasgow: 15 Stuart Hogg, 14 Federico Aramburu, 13 Alex Dunbar, 12 Graeme Morrison, 11 DTH van der Merwe, 10 Duncan Weir, 9 Chris Cusiter, 8 John Barclay, 7 Chris Fusaro, 6 Rob Harley, 5 Al Kellock (capt), 4 Richie Gray, 3 Mike Cusack, 2 Pat MacArthur, 1 Ryan Grant.
Replacements: 16 Dougie Hall, 17 Jon Welsh, 18 Moray Low, 19 Tom Ryder, 20 Henry Pyrgos, 21 Johnnie Beattie, 22 Ruaridh Jackson, 23 Peter Murchie.