12 Dec, 14:42
Prop Cian Healy is expected to miss the start of the 2014 RBS 6 Nations after undergoing surgery on his injured ankle on Wednesday.
MUNSTER (6th) v LEINSTER (3rd), Thomond Park, 6.30pm (live RTÉ Two)
Team News: Munster head coach Rob Penney has made four changes to his Heineken Cup quarter-final-winning side for Saturday's RaboDirect PRO12 derby date with Leinster at Thomond Park.
The most noticeable of those changes comes at out-half where Ian Keatley gets the nod, with Ronan O'Gara absent from the 23-man squad and JJ Hanrahan providing back-up on the bench.
Keatley's inclusion is the only change in the back-line from the Harlequins match, while up front Donncha O'Callaghan partners Paul O'Connell in the second row and front row duo Damien Varley and Stephen Archer come in for Mike Sherry and BJ Botha respectively.
O'Connell continues as captain as former All Black Doug Howlett, who picked up shoulder and thigh injuries in the recent defeat to Glasgow Warriors, remains an absentee.
Both Sherry and Botha are listed among the replacements along with promising prop James Cronin who makes the step up to a senior matchday squad for the first time.
The fit-again David O'Callaghan, a club-mate of Cronin's at Dolphin, is back in the Munster squad for the first time since late December.
The young back rower has recovered from a knee injury and played for Munster 'A' in their British & Irish Cup quarter-final win over Cornish Pirates last Sunday.
Speaking ahead of this weekend's interprovincial derby, centre James Downey, one of Munster's top performers against 'Quins, said: "It was a cup game and everyone held their hands up (last weekend). I wanted the ball, all of us wanted it, and I maybe demanded it a bit more off ROG (Ronan O'Gara) than I normally would, I just wanted to get into the game.
"As it worked out, it is the kind of game I like, it suited my sort of style. It was a unique day to be a part of it at the end of the game when you are walking around and seeing so many Munster fans, wondering where they got all the tickets.
"As Paulie said, when you go out there you find someone in the crowd and look at them and you see what it means to them. They had paid good money to get over there and get the tickets - you have to produce for them, that's what it's all about."
He added: "I think we have just got to keep it going. We need a couple of back-to-backs wins and no better game to have than Leinster to be honest.
"That Harlequins game was a full performance, but it is about backing it up now and we have to back it up this week."
Meanwhile, the Leinster team to face Munster in the much-anticipated interprovincial showdown in Limerick has been finalised.
Brian O'Driscoll will make his first Leinster appearance since the Heineken Cup victory over Exeter Chiefs, returning to provincial duty after the Six Nations and his three-week suspension for a stamping incident in Ireland's loss to Italy.
For the trip to Limerick O'Driscoll will link up with his long-term centre partner Gordon D'Arcy, Leinster's man-of-the-match against London Wasps.
Fergus McFadden picked up a slight calf strain during last Friday's Amlin Challenge Cup quarter-final, but should be available for the away trip to Zebre next week along with Jonathan Sexton who will be given an extra week to fully recover from his foot injury.
Ian Madigan's 28-point haul last weekend took him past the 300-point career mark and he has now scored 202 points in his 26 appearances so far this season.
Sean O'Brien will make his 80th appearance for Leinster at Thomond Park and is joined in the pack by fellow Ireland international Sean Cronin who is set for his 45th outing in Leinster colours.
Leo Cullen leads the team from the second row where he is partnered by Quinn Roux, with Shane Jennings recovering from last week's illness to take his place in the back row alongside O'Brien and Jamie Heaslip.
Kevin McLaughlin is one of four Ireland international forwards named on the bench, the others being Richardt Strauss, Michael Bent and Devin Toner.
Commenting on the interprovincial clash, Strauss said: "It is great to have Brian O'Driscoll back for the Munster game. We have been fortunate to have had a good record against Munster in recent seasons, but it is going to be a tough one.
"They are coming off a really good win against Harlequins and that wasn't easy. They will be on a high, but hopefully we can do a job.
"Munster had a brilliant second half against Harlequins. You could see the intensity and the physicality they played with. So, we're very excited about that. We just expect the same as we saw in that second half."
MUNSTER: Felix Jones; Denis Hurley, Casey Laulala, James Downey, Simon Zebo; Ian Keatley, Conor Murray; David Kilcoyne, Damien Varley, Stephen Archer, Donncha O'Callaghan, Paul O'Connell (capt), Peter O'Mahony, Tommy O'Donnell, James Coughlan.
Replacements: Mike Sherry, James Cronin, BJ Botha, Billy Holland, David O'Callaghan, Cathal Sheridan, JJ Hanrahan, Ivan Dineen.
LEINSTER: Rob Kearney; David Kearney, Brian O'Driscoll, Gordon D'Arcy, Isa Nacewa; Ian Madigan, Isaac Boss; Cian Healy, Sean Cronin, Mike Ross, Leo Cullen (capt), Quinn Roux, Sean O'Brien, Shane Jennings, Jamie Heaslip.
Replacements: Richardt Strauss, Jack McGrath, Michael Bent, Devin Toner, Kevin McLaughlin, John Cooney, Andrew Goodman, Andrew Conway.
Referee: Nigel Owens (Wales)
Assistant Referees: David Wilkinson, Jonathan Peak (both Ireland)
Television Match Official: Jude Quinn (Ireland)
Match Odds (Paddy Power): Munster to win: 8/5; Draw: 20/1; Leinster to win: 8/15
Pre-Match Quotes: Paul O'Connell (Munster) - "I thought I'd be back (from injury) a lot earlier but certainly, I'm very grateful to be back now and very grateful we produced such a big performance against Harlequins at the weekend and our season is still going," he told RTÉ Sport.
"Rob has put in a brilliant framework for us to play with and it is up to us to play whatever game we see fit to play within that framework.
"The big thing is that the players need to step up and take control. Rob (Penney) gives us so much excellent information. Anthony (Foley), Simon Mannix and Ian Costello give us great information. We need to use it better at the weekend. We've done that from time to time this year.
"There is very little said on the pitch during the (interprovincial) games. They are just very hard games. I think we (Munster and Leinster) have made each other better and better down through the years.
"We're chasing Leinster at the moment in terms of their standards and their performances. They are back-to-back Heineken Cup winners and they are performing very well in the PRO12 at the moment.
"Hopefully we can produce some of what we produced last weekend and give them a good game. It's always a tough game. There are no friendlies with Leinster. It's a game you get reminded about by players, fans and the media for a long time after."
Rob Kearney (Leinster) - "Whenever you play in a derby game against Munster and lose, it's a tough pill to swallow. On the other side of things, whenever you pick up a win against them, it gives you a great lift," he told the Herald.
"There has been a bit of a see-saw shift between the two of us in recent years with neither side gaining a real monopoly. Nothing comes easy to you against a good side like Munster, and that's especially on their home turf where they have enjoyed such success over the years.
"To get a win on Saturday night, we're going to have to be clinical and ruthless in our execution and seriously disciplined in our defence. It's a challenge that we're ready for.
"I watched the Munster game last weekend and you have to take your hat off to them. They showed great character and passion to get the win against Harlequins and they'll take a lot of confidence into this weekend's game, without a doubt.
"From our point of view, we were delighted to get the win over in Wasps, but we know that we have to be more accurate, especially in first phase. We're focused and determined to push on again this weekend."
Top Scorers - 2012/13 RaboDirect PRO12: Munster - Points: Ian Keatley 115; Tries: Tommy O'Donnell 4; Leinster - Points: Ian Madigan 167; Tries: Ian Madigan 6
RECENT LEAGUE MEETINGS:
Saturday, October 2, 2010 - Leinster 13 Munster 9, Aviva Stadium
Saturday, April 2, 2011 - Munster 24 Leinster 23, Thomond Park
Saturday, May 28, 2011 - Grand final - Munster 19 Leinster 9, Thomond Park
Friday, November 4, 2011 - Leinster 24 Munster 19, Aviva Stadium
Saturday, March 31, 2012 - Munster 9 Leinster 18, Thomond Park
Saturday, October 6, 2012 - Leinster 30 Munster 21, Aviva Stadium
- Munster's victory over English champions Harlequins last weekend saw them become the RaboDirect PRO12's sole representatives in the last-four of this season's Heineken Cup
- The Munstermen's only win in their last five PRO12 encounters was 22-0 over Connacht in Cork in round 18. Munster have won their last three games against fellow Irish provinces
- Leinster's demolition of London Wasps saw them become the only non-French side left in this season's Amlin Challenge Cup
- The Leinstermen's seven match-winning run in the PRO12 came to an end with their 18-22 home defeat to Ulster in the last round. Leinster are unbeaten away from home in 2013
- Leinster have won their last three encounters with Munster including an 18-9 victory at Thomond Park in this equivalent fixture last season
|5/10/13||Munster Rugby||19 - 15||Leinster Rugby||20,646|
|13/4/13||Munster Rugby||16 - 22||Leinster Rugby||23,037|
|6/10/12||Leinster Rugby||30 - 21||Munster Rugby||46,280|