Tonight’s Magners League meeting of Munster and Leinster promises to be a fascinating encounter, with the added spice of the league’s top spot being up for grabs and a renewal of certain rivalries from the World Cup.
MAGNERS LEAGUE: Friday, November 30
MUNSTER v LEINSTER, Musgrave Park, 7.30pm (live Setanta Sports 2)
Team News: Kieran Lewis and Niall Ronan could both play against their former province Leinster tonight – the pair have been named in Munster’s matchday squad for the Magners League derby clash at Musgrave Park.
With Brian Carney ruled out through injury, Lewis will face his former club-mates when he lines out on the right wing for the men in red.
A knee injury rules Carney out and gives Lewis another opportunity to catch the eye after his impressive try-scoring display against the Dragons last Saturday. The other change in the Munster back-line sees Shaun Payne return at full-back in place of Denis Hurley.
Changes in the pack from last time out see Marcus Horan, Jerry Flannery and John Hayes start in place of Federico Pucciariello, who is on duty with the Barbarians, Frankie Sheahan and Tony Buckley in a completely new front row. Both Sheahan and Buckley have been named on the replacements bench.
Donncha O’Callaghan renews his second row partnership with Mick O’Driscoll while Donnacha Ryan, who started ahead of O’Callaghan last Saturday, takes over from the injured Alan Quinlan (hand) at blindside flanker.
The other changes in the back row see David Wallace come back in at openside while Denis Leamy, a replacement last Saturday, starts this time while Anthony Foley is named on the bench.
Meanwhile, having recovered from a hip injury, Ireland international Gordon D’Arcy has been named in Leinster’s team for their Magners League showdown with Munster.
D’Arcy returns to the team after missing last weekend’s 26-19 victory over the Ospreys and he is joined in the starting line-up by former Munster man Stephen Keogh, Jamie Heaslip, Malcolm O’Kelly, Bernard Jackman and Ollie Le Roux.
Cillian Willis partners Felipe Contepomi at half-back with Rob Kearney and Shane Horgan, both try scorers from last weekend, named in the back three alongside Luke Fitzgerald.
South African international Le Roux returns to the front row and lines up alongside Jackman and Stan Wright, with Leo Cullen continuing his second row partnership with fellow Ireland international O’Kelly.
Munster: Shaun Payne; Kieran Lewis, Rua Tipoki, Lifeimi Mafi, Ian Dowling; Ronan O’Gara (capt), Peter Stringer; Marcus Horan, Jerry Flannery, John Hayes, Donncha O’Callaghan, Mick O’Driscoll, Donnacha Ryan, David Wallace, Denis Leamy.
Replacements: Frankie Sheahan, Tony Buckley, Anthony Foley, Niall Ronan, Gerry Hurley, Paul Warwick, Barry Murphy.
Leinster: Rob Kearney; Shane Horgan, Brian O’Driscoll (capt), Gordon D’Arcy, Luke Fitzgerald; Felipe Contepomi, Cillian Willis; Ollie Le Roux, Bernard Jackman, Stan Wright, Leo Cullen, Malcolm O’Kelly, Stephen Keogh, Shane Jennings, Jamie Heaslip.
Replacements: Brian Blaney, Cian Healy, Cameron Jowitt, Keith Gleeson, Chris Keane, Jonathan Sexton, Gary Brown.
Referee: Wayne Barnes (England)
Coach Speak: Declan Kidney (Munster) – “Munster-Leinster games are always great occasions, you only have to look at the demand for tickets over the past few weeks to know that. Certainly the interest in this game seems to be right up there with anything we’ve experienced in the past.
“As for the game itself, I think its going to be a great contest. Leinster are one of the top sides not alone in Ireland but in Europe so we’d have a lot of respect for them. There’ll be a great atmosphere and it’s days like these make this job so enjoyable.”
Michael Cheika (Leinster) – “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.
“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.”
Top Scorers: 2007/08 Magners League – Points: Munster: Paul Warwick 60; Leinster: Jonathan Sexton 59; Tries: Munster: Paul Warwick 2; Leinster: Gordon D’Arcy, Luke Fitzgerald 3 each.
PREVIOUS LEAGUE MEETINGS:
December 15, 2001: Celtic League final – Munster 20 Leinster 24, Lansdowne Road
September 5, 2003: Leinster 8 Munster 15, Donnybrook
February 13, 2004: Munster 24 Leinster 13, Musgrave Park
September 18, 2004: Leinster 17 Munster 15, Donnybrook
January 1, 2005: Munster 19 Leinster 13, Musgrave Park
October 9, 2005: Munster 33 Leinster 9, Musgrave Park
December 31, 2005: Leinster 35 Munster 23, RDS
October 6, 2006: Leinster 27 Munster 20, Lansdowne Road
December 27, 2006: Munster 25 Leinster 11, Thomond Park
– Munster have lost only one of their last five encounters – they were beaten 24-23 by Wasps in Coventry in the Heineken Cup on November 10. Munster have won their last four matches against their fellow Irish provinces, while they have not lost at home to an Irish side since Ulster visited Musgrave Park on December 3, 2005
– Leinster have also lost just one of their last five matches – they lost 33-6 at Toulouse in the Heineken Cup on November 18
– Leinster’s only defeat to an Irish team in their last eight such encounters was a 25-11 loss to Munster at Thomond Park in the Magners League on December 27, 2006
– Leinster have not won on Munster soil since a 24-18 victory at Dooradoyle in Limerick in the Interprovincial championship on August 21, 1998, while Leinster’s last win at Musgrave Park was way back in November 1985