Old rivals Leinster and Munster meet for the first time since last May’s historic European encounter at Croke Park, with both sides keen to enhance their current winning runs to four matches ahead of the start of the Heineken Cup next week.
MAGNERS LEAGUE: Saturday, October 3
LEINSTER (4th) v MUNSTER (3rd), The RDS, 6.30pm (live Setanta Sports 1)
Team News: Brian O’Driscoll will make his first Leinster appearance of the season, having being named in the starting line-up for Saturday’s interprovincial derby against Munster. O’Driscoll will partner Gordon D’Arcy in the centre.
Shane Jennings joins Kevin McLaughlin and Jamie Heaslip in the back row, with Nathan Hines again partnering skipper Leo Cullen in the second row.
Ireland international quartet Bernard Jackman, Rob Kearney, Malcolm O’Kelly and Mike Ross are named on a strong bench.
Meanwhile, Munster have, as expected, named South African centre Jean de Villiers to start against Leinster in the big Magners League clash this weekend.
In addition to the Tri Nations winner, Ireland stars Keith Earls, Jerry Flannery and David Wallace have been named in the starting side.
19 players who saw action in the Heineken Cup semi-final defeat to Leinster last May have been included in the Munster matchday squad for Saturday’s league encounter.
And this game sees the appearance for the first time this season of Earls, Ian Dowling, Flannery, Paul O’Connell and Wallace, while Paul Warwick returns to the squad after injuring a foot in the pre-season game against Leicester Tigers.
Elsewhere, coach Tony McGahan makes two changes to the back row, one enforced by the absence through injury of Alan Quinlan (neck), with Denis Leamy on the blindside, Niall Ronan back from injury on the openside and Nick Williams, the hat-trick hero from the Dragons game, continuing at number 8.
LEINSTER: Isa Nacewa; Shane Horgan, Brian O’Driscoll, Gordon D’Arcy, Luke Fitzgerald; Jonathan Sexton, Eoin Reddan; Cian Healy, John Fogarty, Stan Wright, Leo Cullen (capt), Nathan Hines, Kevin McLaughlin, Shane Jennings, Jamie Heaslip.
Replacements: Bernard Jackman, Mike Ross, Malcolm O’Kelly, Sean O’Brien, Simon Keogh, Fergus McFadden, Rob Kearney.
MUNSTER: Keith Earls; Doug Howlett, Lifeimi Mafi, Jean de Villiers, Denis Hurley; Ronan O’Gara (capt), Tomas O’Leary; Marcus Horan, Denis Fogarty, John Hayes, Donncha O’Callaghan, Mick O’Driscoll, Denis Leamy, Niall Ronan, Nick Williams.
Replacements: Jerry Flannery, Tony Buckley, Paul O’Connell, David Wallace, Paul Warwick, Peter Stringer, Ian Dowling.
Referee: Simon McDowell (Ireland)
Assistant Referees: David Wilkinson, Michael Black (both Ireland)
Television Match Official: Peter Ferguson (Ireland)
Match Odds (Paddy Power): Leinster to win: 4/5; Draw: 18/1; Munster to win: Evens
Say What: Michael Cheika (Leinster) – “In the team there’s a lot of genuine positive feeling amongst the guys. This has been building up over time and there’s a really strong dressing room, which is the objective.
“It’s almost like the dressing room makes the coach’s job obsolete. He doesn’t have to motivate, he just makes a few tactics and they’re motivating themselves and getting themselves up for games.
“When they’re on the back foot they get themselves out of trouble. We didn’t play well last weekend (against Edinburgh) but they got themselves out of trouble which is good. If you’re patient and you work hard then the results will come.
“The two matches against Munster (and the three which can happen which are good!) are the highlights of your season.
“For me, as a foreigner who has come to understand the rivalry, it’s a real classic. You don’t find these types of rivalries in many other places.
“What we have to is break the tit-for-tat nature of this encounter. They win and then we win, we win two and then they win two.
“If we want to be successful on Saturday then we’ll need to break that cycle because I want us to be the team that’s mentally angrier and wants to come back and win the match even though we won the last time. Last time means nothing.”
Tony McGahan (Munster) – “Of course we were gutted to lose that one. Never mind the rivalry between the sides, it was a semi-final of the Heineken Cup.
“The prize was a place in the final obviously, so yes, of course it hurt. I have no doubt Leinster felt exactly the same way in 2006.
“But that’s all been dealt with. There is always the talk about the rivalry, of course there is. It brings great anticipation by the supporters and also by the players themselves. It is something we look forward to.
“It’s the same for every club, there’s the local derby no matter who you are. I think that’s great. It adds to the whole thing and you can’t move away from that.
“For us and indeed Leinster, it’s a case of where we’re at right now and how we can perform on the day. For our part we’ve improved over the past three games, integrated players back into the squad and we complete that process of integration on Saturday, being able to deal from a near full deck.
“It does make it that bit more difficult with players coming back at different stages but we knew we’d have these problems coming into the season.
“We were lucky enough to be able to supplement the squad with a number of young players and expose them to the rigours of professional rugby. So in that aspect, it’s been excellent.”
Top Scorers – 2009/10 Magners League: Leinster – Points: Jonathan Sexton 41; Tries: Girvan Dempsey, Isa Nacewa 1 each; Munster – Points: Jeremy Manning 30; Tries: Nick Williams 3
RECENT LEAGUE MEETINGS:
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
Saturday, April 12, 2008 – Leinster 21 Munster 12, The RDS
Sunday, September 28, 2008 – Leinster 0 Munster 18, The RDS
Saturday, April 4, 2009 – Munster 22 Leinster 5, Thomond Park
– The champions collide head on at the RDS with Magners League winners Munster take on the European Cup holders, Leinster
– Leinster have won their last three games in the Magners League and have won their last ten matches in all competitions at the RDS
– Munster are the only visiting team to have won at the RDS in Leinster’s last 23 games at the venue since October 2007, doing so with an 18-0 triumph last September
– Munster have also won their last three encounters, but have been victorious in just one of their last five away games against fellow Irish provinces
– Munster achieved a Magners League double over Leinster last season, but Leinster did win when the two clashed in the semi-final of the Heineken Cup at Croke Park last May