Leinster v Ulster, Heineken Cup final, Twickenham, May 18
Five reasons why ... will win the Heineken Cup
ESPN Staff
May 18, 2012
Leinster's Leo Cullen next door to the prize, Twickenham, London, May 18, 2012
Will Leinster's Leo Cullen get his hands on the Heineken Cup again this weekend? © Getty Images

The stage is set for this season's Heineken Cup finale between Leinster and Ulster with the Irish provincial rivals set to go head-to-head at Twickenham on Saturday - but who will triumph in the battle for European rugby's top prize?

To fuel the pre-match banter and to settle some nerves, we offer five reasons why Leinster will prevail - and to ensure balance, five reasons why Ulster fans will be dancing in the streets of south west London. But either way, Irish rugby will have plenty to celebrate come Saturday night.

Five reasons why Leinster will win the Heineken Cup

Been there, done that
Big match experience is priceless when it comes to the business end of the season and Leinster are no strangers to title-deciders. They broke their duck with a victory over Leicester in the 2009 euro finale but eclipsed that with an epic comeback victory against Northampton last year. Greatness beckons if they can do it again. They also boast a number of players who have been there, done that - none more so than Kiwi recruit Brad Thorn who is hoping to become the first player in history to hold World Cup, Super Rugby and Heineken Cup winners' medals

Sexton speaks, Leinster listen
Leinster's trump card is arguably playmaker Jonathan Sexton. Recently rated as a class act with hardly any weaknesses by Ireland and Lions legend Ollie Campbell, he is a key cog in Leinster's easy-on-the-eye approach and oozes class under pressure. It was his team talk that inspired the dramatic turnaround 12 months ago and his words also prompted the crucial score against Clermont in the last four. Expect him to do just as much talking - on and off the pitch - at Twickenham.

In BOD we trust
Brian O'Driscoll's legendary status was assured some time ago but he will have endeared himself to fans yet further - if that is possible - by shrugging off his recent knee surgery and declaring himself fit for this game. His name on the team sheet and presence in the changing room is priceless. We've said it before, and will say it again, they should name the 'Man of the Match' honour given in the final after the great man for all he has given this tournament. He may not be back on this stage - so soak it up.

Momentum is everything
Leinster have won seven games and drawn one on their return to the showpiece event and as a result enter the clash with significant momentum. Their winning run in the competition extends even further that with their last defeat in the competition way back in December 2012 at Clermont Auvergne's Stade Marcel Michelin fortress. When it comes to the Heineken Cup, they know how to get it done whether with a flurry of tries or a rock-solid rear guard action.

About Schmidt
The building blocks for Leinster's European dominance may have been laid by his predecessors, with Michael Chieka steering them to their 2009 triumph, but there is little doubt that current coach Joe Schmidt has brought something to the party. Credited with injecting new life into a talented side, the resulting brand of attacking rugby is the envy of the sport. Hailed as the highest-regarded coach in the world by some, he may win over the rest should he steer his side to a notable domestic and European double in the next couple of weeks.

Johann Muller poses alongside the Heineken Cup, Twickenham, London, May 18, 2012
Or will Ulster's Johann Muller lift the sizeable Heineken Cup silverware? © Getty Images

Five reasons why Ulster will win the Heineken Cup

Emotionally charged
The decision to move Ulster coach Brian McLaughlin into an academy role at the end of the season - in a move said to be "in the best interests of Ulster rugby" - still baffles many and will trouble even more should his side claim the title. But with Mark Anscombe on his way to take over, Saturday's game will serve as McLaughlin's farewell - cue fired up performances from a squad determined to repay the faith and guidance offered by their departing boss.

'You have been Ruan-ed'
Springboks international Ruan Pienaar has been a revelation since linking up with Ulster in 2010 and his finger prints have been all over the province's progress to the Twickenham finale. The 28-year-old scrum-half is no stranger to a big occasion having shared in South Africa's Rugby World Cup triumph in 2007, and how it showed in his nerve-less kicking display in the semi-final victory over Edinburgh. A class act, he will punish any indiscipline from Leinster while his experience will serve as a steadying hand.

Every underdog has their day
Ulster enter this game as underdogs for good reason given their rivals' dominance on the European stage of late. But this Ulster side will welcome that tag as they look to finally emerge from their predecessors who claimed the 1999 Heineken Cup crown. They have a habit of producing their best when written off - just look at their quarter-final victory over Munster at the fortress that is Thomond Park. They were also long shots in 1999 - you have been warned.

Pack mentality
Ulster pose a formidable threat up front - even when matched with their star-studded rivals. In the likes of back-row titans Stephen Ferris, Chris Henry and Pedrie Wanneburg they have some of the form players of the season while up front the presence of former All Blacks international John Afoa will strike fear into any side. Together they pack a real punch that will cause Leinster problems at the set-piece and in the loose. Brace for impact.

Crunch time
It is going to take a monumental defensive effort to shackle a free-flowing Leinster side and Ulster boast the tackle-hungry Trojans capable of carrying out such a task. They made a lung-busting 187 tackles to quell Munster's fires with the likes of Henry (19), lock Dan Tuohy (19) and hooker Rory Best (18) snuffing out the danger at source. It will take a similar effort to stem the Leinster tide but they have the organisation and the will power to knock their title rivals out of their stride and swing the game in their favour.

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