Rugby: Crusaders vs Leinster - Who would win the battle of the hemisphere champions?

Another Super Rugby season comes to an end, and with it comes another title for the Crusaders.

They eased to victory over the Lions in the final in Christchurch, with the visitors never looking likely of causing an upset.

But how would the now-nine-time Super Rugby champions go against the Northern Hemisphere's best, Leinster.

The Irish-based club beat Racing 92 in the 2018 European Rugby Champions Cup final.

While the match-up seems unlikely to happen, the various head-to-head battles on paper promise excitement if the game were ever to become reality.

OUTSIDE BACKS

David Havili, Seta Tamanivalu and George Bridge (Crusaders) vs Rob Kearney, Jordan Lamour and Isa Naweca (Leinster)

It's a funny one. If it were a head-to-head battle, I'd give the advantage to Leinster with 86-time capped Ireland fullback, Rob Kearney and European rugby legend Isa Nacewa edging their Crusaders counterparts.

But the gap between Seta Tamanivalu and Jordan Lamour is too big to ignore - and as a whole, the Crusaders just have too much pace and power out wide.

Winner: Crusaders

MIDFIELD

Ryan Crotty and Jack Goodhue (Crusaders) vs Robbie Henshaw and Gary Ringrose (Leinster)

An easier decision with both Ryan Crotty and Jack Goodhue in career-best form, and making a serious case to be the All Blacks' midfield for the 2018 Rugby Championship and beyond.

Leinster boast an exciting midfield in the form of Robbie Henshaw and Gary Ringrose, but there's a clear gap between centre pairings.

Winner: Crusaders

Leinster beat Racing 92 in the European Championship Cup final.
Leinster beat Racing 92 in the European Championship Cup final. Photo credit: Photosport

HALVES

Richie Mo'unga and Bryn Hall (Crusaders) vs Jonathan Sexton and Luke McGrath (Leinster)

Forget the halfbacks; this is about Richie Mo'unga and Jonathan Sexton.

Mo'unga's rise in 2018 has been nothing short of sensational, with many suggesting he should be the All Blacks first choice first-five.

While on the other hand, you have Sexton, who is always in the conversation of the best in the world in his position.

It's too close to call and would be unfair to give either the edge, with Bryn Hall and Luke McGrath's match-up as close, just on a much lesser scale.

Winner: Tie

LOOSE FORWARDS

Kieran Read, Matt Todd and Heiden Bedwell-Curtis (Crusaders) vs Jordie Murphy, Dan Leavy and Scott Fardy (Leinster)

Two words: Kieran Read. The All Blacks captain is in a category of his own and gives the Crusaders the advantage in the back-row in what would otherwise be a relatively close match-up.

Matt Todd and Heiden Bedwell-Curtis are up against Irish international, Dan Leavy and former Wallaby, Scott Fardy, in a head-to-head not worth separating.

Winner: Crusaders

LOCKS

Sam Whitelock and Scott Barrett (Crusaders) vs James Ryan and Devin Toner (Leinster)

An absolute no-brainer; Sam Whitelock and Scott Barrett on any given Saturday. The Crusaders and All Blacks lock-pairing are in a league of their own and have been in fantastic form.

Devin Toner and James Ryan are worthy opponents, having both been capped by Ireland, but they're outmatched on this occasion.

Winner: Crusaders

The Crusaders won a record-extending ninth Super Rugby title.
The Crusaders won a record-extending ninth Super Rugby title. Photo credit: Getty

FRONT ROW

Joe Moody, Codie Taylor and Owen Franks vs Cian Healy, Sean Cronin and Tadgh Furlong (Leinster)

Now, this may irk a few Crusaders fans out there. As great as the Crusaders' All-Black-packed front-row are, they meet their match here.

Leinster tight-head Tadgh Furlong is the best in the world, with his talents on display for all to see in Ireland's series win over Australia in June.

The head-to-head battle between Joe Moody and Cian Healy is tight, while Codie Taylor beats out experienced Irish international, Sean Cronin.

Much like Read's influence in the back-row battle, Furlong swings the vote the way of Leinster.

Winner: Leinster

Verdict:

The final tally of 4-1 in favour of the Crusaders doesn't point to a close game, but there's little separating most of the match-ups on paper.

There's a serious case to be made Leinster have the advantage in the outside backs and the halves, and had the European Rugby Champions Cup final been last night, maybe they would have.

While the battle up-front could have gone either way, with the powerful Furlong swaying my decision in what would be an absolutely fascinating head-to-head clash.

There's also the matter of would it be a one-off game, or a series, much like State of Origin - where each side plays at home, away and at a neutral venue.

Ultimately, the safe money would be on the Crusaders taking the honours, whether it is one game or a series - they just have far too much fire-power across the park.

Newshub.

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