10 Dec, 12:23
Ireland's John Lacey will referee his first ever RBS 6 Nations match in February, while Alain Rolland is also included in the Elite Panel in what is his last season.
Australian international scrum half Chris Whitaker is well used to the kind of heat generated by a derby match like tonight's Leinster-Munster showdown at Lansdowne Road.
During his time with NSW Waratahs, Whitaker had plenty of duels with the Tahs' arch rivals Queensland and this week compared that Down Under derby to his first provincial clash with Munster.
The 31-year-old said: "In Sydney we were always the city slickers, a bit like Leinster are seen to be here. Everyone has a grudge against New South Wales because they are seen to be a bit elitist.
"So there are huge similarities in the two derbies all the way down to the colour of the jumpers worn by the two teams. In Australia over the years, New South Wales versus Queensland has developed into a huge grudge match.
"Not an inch given, but off the field we were the best of mates, and I suppose it is no different here."
With 31 Test caps to his name, spread out between 1998 and 2005, Whitaker has plenty of big game experience to draw on for tonight, but he is prepared for a testing time as he rates Munster, and their half-backs in particular, highly.
He has only played once against Peter Stringer previously - Ireland's 45-16 tour match defeat to the Wallabies in Perth in June 2003 - but he did get up at 3am in the morning (Sydney time) to watch Munster's Heineken Cup triumph last May.
"I thought Stringer played well against Ulster (last week), and he was, of course, the man-of-the-match in the Heineken Cup final. He is skilful and has a large pack in front of him. It also helps that he has a number 10 in Ronan O'Gara outsdie him who controls the shots. As a team, I believe, Munster are very balanced," he surmised.
Having fully recovered from the shoulder injury which saw him play only eight minutes in last week's win over Connacht, Whitaker is delighted to have Argentinian Felipe Contepomi alongside him for what will be his first time playing at Lansdowne Road.
He added: "The situation here is very similar to back in Australia - the same attacking philosophy. I love playing with someone like Felipe (Contepomi), who reads the game in front of him and has a real go.
"It's up to everyone else in the team to improve their skills and read speed, to keep up with him. He plays what's in front of him, as opposed to a lot of players these days who play off calls."