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Celtic Cup: Munster Unchanged For Semi Showdown

Celtic Cup: Munster Unchanged For Semi Showdown

Munster have named an unchanged side, containing three 2005 Lions, for Sunday’s Celtic Cup semi-final at Lansdowne Road. In the blue corner, Leinster will have all six of their current Lions on show.

Munster have named an unchanged side, containing three 2005 Lions, for Sunday’s Celtic Cup semi-final at Lansdowne Road. In the blue corner, Leinster will have all six of their current Lions on show.

Celtic Cup Semi-Final: Sunday, May 8
Leinster v Munster, Lansdowne Road, 5.30pm (live Setanta Sports Ireland)

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Despite the gradual improvement of Ronan O’Gara’s knee injury, Munster coach Alan Gaffney has decided not to risk the Ireland and Lions fly-half.

The Australian has retained Paul Burke at number 10 with young UCC fly-half Jeremy Manning making the bench as he did in last Saturday’s 24-14 quarter-final defeat of Edinburgh.

Munster’s only switch comes in the replacements with prop Gordon McIlwham in ahead of Old Crescent youngster Eugene McGovern.

Retiring back row Jim Williams misses out due to his ongoing battle with an elbow injury.

In all, Leinster have made four changes with starts for returning Lions trio Shane Horgan, Denis Hickie and Malcolm O’Kelly.

Horgan and Hickie – who came on as second half replacements in last Friday’s 33-24 Celtic Cup quarter-final win over Glasgow – will start in a backline also containing their fellow New Zealand tourists Brian O’Driscoll and Gordon D’Arcy.

The two changes in the pack see Emmett Byrne replace Ricky Nebbett at tighthead prop, while O’Kelly resumes his lock partnership with Leo Cullen.

Retiring number 8 Victor Costello is also included ahead of what could prove to be his final outing in a blue shirt. The former Ireland international boasts 126 Leinster caps to his name.

Leinster will confirm their replacements closer to kick-off.

There is plenty in the offing for Sunday’s partcipants, not just the lure of silverware and a probable Cup final crack at league champions the Ospreys.

Nine current Lions will be on show, and there is also a golden chance to spar for the limelight and a selector’s eye ahead of Ireland’s two-test tour to Japan next month.

Even if there will be side shows, who will reign supreme come Welsh referee Nigel Whitehouse’s final whistle?

Hosts Leinster – who look set to wait until the end of the month to reveal Declan Kidney’s successor as director of rugby – have not lost a Celtic tie for two months.

They are also unbeaten against Irish opposition for a full 15 years. Munster were the last side to defeat them at headquarters, 27-12 in the 1990 Interprovincial series.

Minus O’Gara, Williams and long-term injury victim and league top try-scorer Christian Cullen, Gaffney’s men have also seen out their season with gusto.

Having bowed out of the Heineken Cup with much credit, Munster concluded their league campaign with four straight wins. More pertinently, they have edged Leinster in three of their last four meetings.

Still, Leinster had enough in reserve when down to 14 men in the sides’ last meeting at headquarters – the 2001/02 Celtic League final – to win out 24-20, showing a great deal of tenacity after Eric Miller’s 25th-minute sending-off.

If they can pull out a full 80-minute performance, keep their discipline and not waiver like they did in the second half against Glasgow last Friday, then a first ever Celtic Cup final should be their prize.

Do not be surprised though if goal kickers Burke and David Holwell, Leinster’s player of the month for March and IRUPA Newcomer of the Year, decide the semi-final’s ultimate outcome. This season’s clashes between the provinces have had winning margins of only two and six points, respectively.

Head-to-head since 2001: Leinster 2, Munster 3, Draw 1
Celtic form: Leinster: LWWWW; Munster: WWWWW
Top League scorers: Leinster: David Holwell 158 points / Denis Hickie 6 tries; Munster: Paul Burke 132 / Christian Cullen 8

Cup records: 03/04: Leinster: Quarter-finalists (lost 23-23 (tries count-back) v Ulster (away)); Munster: Quarter-finalists (lost 14-18 v Glasgow (away))


(15) Girvan Dempsey
(14) Shane Horgan
(13) Brian O’Driscoll
(12) Gordon D’Arcy
(11) Denis Hickie
(10) David Holwell
(9) Guy Easterby
(1) Reggie Corrigan (Capt)
(2) Shane Byrne
(3) Emmett Byrne
(4) Leo Cullen
(5) Malcolm O’Kelly
(6) Des Dillon
(7) Keith Gleeson
(8) Victor Costello

Replacements (from): Ricky Nebbett, John Lyne, David Blaney, Ben Gissing, Shane Jennings, Eric Miller, Aidan McCullen, Brian O’Meara, Felipe Contepomi, David Quinlan.


(15) Shaun Payne
(14) John Kelly
(13) Mike Mullins
(12) Rob Henderson
(11) Anthony Horgan
(10) Paul Burke
(9) Peter Stringer
(1) Marcus Horan
(2) Frank Sheahan
(3) John Hayes
(4) Donncha O’Callaghan
(5) Paul O’Connell
(6) Alan Quinlan
(7) David Wallace
(8) Anthony Foley (Capt)


(16) Jerry Flannery
(17) Gordon McIlwham
(18) Trevor Hogan
(19) Denis Leamy
(20) Mike Prendergast
(21) Jeremy Manning
(22) Paul Devlin

Referee: Nigel Whitehouse (Wales)