RTÉ Rugby analyst Tony Ward believes that it will be an all-Irish RaboDirect PRO12 final following this weekend’s semi-finals in Ravenhill and the RDS.
The former Ireland out-half cannot see Llanelli Scarlets troubling Ulster in Friday night’s opening semi-final at Ravenhill, which will be live on RTÉ Two from 7.30pm.
“Ulster started the season so well and hit the ground running at a rate of knots. They did tail off, but what has impressed me is the way they have come back again since the Six Nations. They managed to finish top of the league and got themselves in the position of having a home semi-final against Llanelli,” Ward said.
"I’ve seen Glasgow a number of times this season and they have been absolutely outstanding"
“The Scarlets were hammered last week by Treviso, which nobody expected, and really only got into the semi-final on the back of Leinster beating the Ospreys, so that’s not a good place to be for Simon Easterby.”
“The Scarlets will produce everything on the night, but I just cannot see anything but an Ulster win given the strength of the side they have put out.”
“Even without John Afoa, the fact that Tommy Bowe is back, Stuart Olding in the centre really impresses me, and the back-row of Nick Williams, Robbie Dyak and Chris Henry are just outstanding.
“I can’t see anything but an Ulster win.”
Leinster host Glasgow Warriors in the second semi-final on Saturday at the RDS, and Ward believes the home side will make it an all-Ireland final, but stresses they would want to be mindful as they push for two trophies as the perfect parting gift for Joe Schmidt and Isa Nacewa.
“That is certainly the mindset that Leinster don’t want, to think that it is just going to happen and that will be the fairytale ending we are all anticipating.
“It is a great incentive, but, if you turn back the clock ten years to when Matt Williams was in charge, Leinster had a situation where we thought it was only a matter of course for them to beat Perpignan and qualify for a Heineken Cup Final, and that never happened.”
“Glasgow are more than capable (of beating Leinster). If you were to ask me over the last few weeks who I thought would make the final I would have said Leinster and Glasgow.
"I’ve seen Glasgow a number of times this season and they have been absolutely outstanding and play a lovely brand of rugby.
“Glasgow are well capable of testing Leinster all the way and I think it is going to be a really exciting game.”
“That said, it does seem to be set up for Leinster to finish up the season with the not insignificant haul of two trophies, which would be a magnificent send off for Joe Schmidt and Isa Nacewa, and I do anticipate that coming to fruition.”
LIVE: RABODIRECT PRO12
Live television coverage of Ulster v Llanelli from 19:30 on Friday 10 May on RTÉ Two and RTÉ.ie (Ireland only).