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Cheika Looks Forward To Musgrave Derby

Cheika Looks Forward To Musgrave Derby

Speaking ahead of Friday’s mouth-watering Magners League derby in Cork, Leinster coach Michael Cheika said that his players are excited about the prospect of facing an in form Munster side.

Cheika, who has named a 25-man squad for the trip south, said: “The intensity of big derby games are always massive. We’ve had two so far this season – against Ulster and Connacht – and we have another big one coming up (on Friday). The games are always tight, competitive and hugely physical and I’m expecting Friday night to be no different.

“We made a fair few changes to our team for the Ospreys match, and first and foremost I’m pleased that we got the win. We lacked control at the base of our scrum and in our delivery and they were probably the two key ingredients behind the game becoming messy.

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“We lacked a bit of discipline at times and we know that coming up against a side as strong as Munster’s that they are key areas that we will need to improve upon.”

Both Gordon D’Arcy and Stephen Keogh, who missed the 26-19 victory over the Ospreys, have recovered from their respective injuries to give the Leinster management some extra options at centre and in the back row.

Cheika added: “We’re pleased to welcome back Gordon and Stephen and we will just need to wait and see on their availability this week. Certainly their inclusion in the preliminary squad, as well as welcoming back both Jamie (Heaslip) and Ollie (Le Roux) after being rested last weekend, gives the squad a boost.”

Leinster have not won a match on Munster soil since a 24-18 Interprovincial championship success at Dooradoyle in August 1998 but their performances away from home in this season’s league, including two notable wins at Cardiff and the Ospreys, has given the province a lift ahead of Friday’s game.

“Our away form has improved this year and that was an area that we were keen to improve on. We know how difficult it is to win on the road and Friday will be a big, big challenge. We’ve got to keep our heads against a Munster side who are bang in form by the looks of things,” admitted the Australian.

Donnacha Ryan is a very good player and it will be very hard to leave him out after his performance last weekend. Even though Alan Quinlan will be unavailable, they’ve got experienced players like Anthony Foley and Niall Ronan to come into the team. We know Niall (Ronan) and Kieran Lewis well and I’m sure they’re both excited by the chance to play against Leinster.

“Munster have experience right throughout their team and I have been particularly impressed by the two centres – Rua Tipoki and (Lifeimi) Mafi. I’ve seen a fair bit of Tipoki and he has a brilliant sidestep and is a real threat. He looks to have settled into the Munster culture really well and they’re both sure to test our defence.”

Whereas their recent record in Munster is poor, Leinster can draw encouragement from the fact that they have lost just one of their last eight encounters with their fellow Irish provinces – a 25-11 league defeat to Munster at Thomond Park last December – and the news that they will be backed on friday by a travelling support numbering 2,000.

“When it comes to derby games, you tend to forget about external factors like going to the top of the table and things like that. There’s a lot of rugby to be played between now and the end of the season. Friday night will be a big enough challenge in itself,” insisted Cheika.

“To have in the region of 2,000 supporters on a Friday night is incredible, because this means that a lot of people will have had to take time off work to support the team.

“When you have a small crowd at an away game, that in itself gives you a lift, but to go into the lions’ den with a strong following behind you gives you an enormous lift. I’m sure that it will help motivate the players even further. As a player you can only feel the benefit of that kind of inspiring support.”