Saturday night’s game at the RDS has all the ingredients to be a thriller as Magners League leaders Leinster entertain Heineken Cup semi-finalists Munster. A win for the hosts would move them a step closer to the title, while if Munster can prevail, they will keep themselves in the title hunt.
MAGNERS LEAGUE: Saturday, April 12
LEINSTER v MUNSTER, The RDS, 6.30pm (live Setanta Sports Ireland)
Team News: Leinster coach Michael Cheika has made two changes to his side for Saturday’s crunch Magners League tie with Munster, with Girvan Dempsey and Keith Gleeson the two new inclusions.
Hooker Bernard Jackman will make his 50th appearance for Leinster after being named in the starting line-up for the sell-out clash.
Jackman is again joined in the front row by Ollie Le Roux and Stan Wright in a pack that shows one change from the eight that started the 24-10 success over the Llanelli Scarlets last time out.
Shane Jennings is joined by the returning Keith Gleeson in a back row which includes Bank of Ireland Player of the Month Jamie Heaslip. Stephen Keogh is the player replaced by Gleeson.
In the continued absence of Brian O’Driscoll, Leo Cullen is again named as captain and starts in the second row with fellow international Malcolm O’Kelly.
In the back-line, Girvan Dempsey returns at full-back after featuring as a second half replacement in the Stradey Park victory. He is an indirect replacement in the side for injury worry Michael Berne (ankle).
In a reshuffle of the backs, Ireland international Luke Fitzgerald lines up alongside Felipe Contepomi at centre, with Rob Kearney moving to the left wing and Shane Horgan continuing on the right wing.
Chris Whitaker continues his half-back partnership with Jonathan Sexton. The Leinster replacements bench will be confirmed an hour before kick-off.
Meanwhile, Marcus Horan (back) and David Wallace (facial injury) have both failed to recover from their respective injuries in time to be included in the Munster squad for this trip to Leinster.
With squad captain Paul O’Connell listed amongst the replacements, Ronan O’Gara will lead Munster in their must-win game against Leinster.
In all, Munster coach Declan Kidney has made three personnel changes to the side that beat Gloucester in a memorable Heineken Cup quarter-final at Kingsholm last Saturday.
O’Gara will be partnered at half-back by the returning Peter Stringer in the only change to the back-line that started last time out against Gloucester.
Up front Tony Buckley comes in for Horan, a late withdrawal for the Gloucester game in the front row, while Mick O’Driscoll joins Donncha O’Callaghan in the second row.
With Wallace sidelined, Anthony Foley’s return to the number 8 jersey sees a back row reshuffle. Denis Leamy moves to from number 8 to the openside position.
LEINSTER: Girvan Dempsey; Shane Horgan, Luke Fitzgerald, Felipe Contepomi, Rob Kearney; Jonathan Sexton, Chris Whitaker; Ollie Le Roux, Bernard Jackman, Stan Wright, Leo Cullen (capt), Malcolm O’Kelly, Shane Jennings, Keith Gleeson, Jamie Heaslip.
Replacements (from): Brian Blaney, Cian Healy, Stephen Knoop, Trevor Hogan, Stephen Keogh, Chris Keane, Eoin O’Malley, Michael Berne, Gary Brown.
MUNSTER: Denis Hurley; Doug Howlett, Lifeimi Mafi, Rua Tipoki, Ian Dowling; Ronan O’Gara (capt), Peter Stringer; Tony Buckley, Jerry Flannery, John Hayes, Donncha O’Callaghan, Mick O’Driscoll, Alan Quinlan, Denis Leamy, Anthony Foley.
Replacements: Frankie Sheahan, Federico Pucciariello, Paul O’Connell, Niall Ronan, Tomas O’Leary, Paul Warwick, Kieran Lewis.
Referee: Chris White (England)
Touch Judges: Colin Stanley and David Wilkinson (both Ireland)
Television Match Official: Marshall Kilgore (Ireland)
Say What: Michael Cheika (Leinster) – “I think that weeks like these are the most enjoyable because it’s like a cup final atmosphere. Obviously there’s a lot of tension that goes down when two provinces meet but there’s a lot of respect between the two teams.
“Munster had a very good performance last weekend against Gloucester and dominated the game and the opposition into playing how they wanted them to, and that’s why they’re so good at it. That’s why they’re the best team in Europe.
“We’ve got to make sure we learn from some of the mistakes that Gloucester made, and that we don’t make the same ones on Saturday.
“Is there envy towards Munster? No, they deserve all the plaudits they get. There’s a quantum shift that has to go on, and we don’t worry about what goes on with Munster.
“We worry about what happens with Leinster. If they go on to win the Heineken Cup, and I think they will, then good on ’em.
“Jealousy will get you nothing. Hunger will get you everything.
“They’re a very, very strong team and we’re going to have to play very well to beat them. And we really want to beat them. We want to make sure that we’re very well prepared for it.”
Declan Kidney (Munster) – “Leinster have beaten us at home earlier on in the season and there is no doubt in anybody’s mind the size of the task ahead of us – it’s just going to be another huge game.
“One week we’re playing the team that’s top of the Guinness Premiership, next thing we’re playing the team at the top of the Magners League.
“Every game is a tough game at this stage of the season and it presents different challenges in the way the teams attack and in the way the teams defend.
“Leinster’s last two wins have been two huge wins. To go over to Llanelli, especially the night that was in it, and also their home win against Cardiff. Those were two big wins.
“I think you have to give credit where it’s due, they are where they are because they deserve to be there. They’ve shown good consistency during the season and we just want to make sure that we don’t end up on the losing side twice in the one season against them.”
Top Scorers: 2007/08 Magners League – Points: Leinster: Felipe Contepomi 89; Munster: Paul Warwick 95; Tries: Leinster: Luke Fitzgerald, Jamie Heaslip, Shane Horgan 5 each; Munster: Paul Warwick, Denis Leamy, Donnacha Ryan, Tony Buckley, Doug Howlett 2 each.
PREVIOUS LEAGUE MEETINGS:
Saturday, December 15, 2001 – Final – Leinster 24 Munster 20, Lansdowne Road
Friday, September 5, 2003 – Leinster 8 Munster 15, Donnybrook
Friday, February 13, 2004 – Munster 24 Leinster 13, Musgrave Park
Saturday, September 18, 2004 – Leinster 17 Munster 15, Donnybrook
Saturday, January 1, 2005 – Munster 19 Leinster 13, Musgrave Park
Sunday, October 9, 2005 – Munster 33 Leinster 9, Musgrave Park
Saturday, December 31, 2005 – Leinster 35 Munster 23, The RDS
Friday, October 6, 2006 – Leinster 27 Munster 20, Lansdowne Road
Wednesday, December 27, 2006 – Munster 25 Leinster 11, Thomond Park
Friday, November 30, 2007 – Munster 3 Leinster 10, Musgrave Park
– Leinster are unbeaten in their last ten matches in the Magners League since Glasgow defeated them 21-17 at Firhill on October 12
– Leinster’s only home loss in any competition since November 2005 was a 52-23 reversal to the Llanelli Scarlets at the RDS on October 5
– Munster have won five of their last six matches in all competitions. Munster’s only defeat in their last eight encounters with fellow Irish provinces was a 10-3 defeat at home to Leinster on November 30 last
– Leinster are going for a first ever season’s double over Munster, while the Munstermen’s only victory over Leinster in Dublin in the league to date was a 15-8 victory on September 5, 2003