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British & Irish Cup Semi-Final Preview: Leinster ‘A’ v Munster ‘A’

British & Irish Cup Semi-Final Preview: Leinster ‘A’ v Munster ‘A’

The interprovincial derby matches are coming thick and fast now, the latest of which sees the ‘A’ teams from Leinster and Munster battling it out for a place in the British & Irish Cup final. The Blues are chasing their first ever final appearance.


LEINSTER ‘A’ v MUNSTER ‘A’, the RDS, 6pm

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Team News: The Leinster ‘A’ team to face Munster ‘A’ in the semi-finals of the British & Irish Cup at the RDS on Good Friday has been named.

Following their unbeaten run in this year’s competition, the Leinster ‘A’ management can call upon a mix of youth and experience for what is the first British & Irish Cup game to be held at the RDS.

John Cooney (jaw) is ruled out so he is replaced by Ireland Under-20 scrum half Luke McGrath who makes his third appearance in the 2011/12 tournament.

McGrath partners Noel Reid at half-back, with all of the province’s starting backs being products of the Leinster Academy.

Amongst them is the centre partnership of Colm O’Shea and Brendan Macken, the scorer of two tries in the previous round victory over Pontypridd.

Fionn Carr, Andrew Conway and David Kearney make up a lively back-three, while up front the team will be led by Rhys Ruddock who is named in the back row alongside Leo Auva’a and Dominic Ryan.

Damian Browne, returning from injury, partners former St. Finian’s Mullingar second row Mark Flanagan who makes his eighth cup appearance. Jack McGrath will line out in the front row alongside hooker Aaron Dundon and tighthead prop Martin Moore.

Meanwhile, a busy Easter weekend begins for Munster on Friday with a trip to Dublin for a British & Irish Cup semi-final that should prove every bit as difficult as what is anticipated on Sunday down in Limerick.

Ian Costello’s Munster ‘A’ side will be captained by the experienced Billy Holland and backboned by players such as Danny Barnes, Duncan Williams and Ian Nagle, who have been regulars in the senior squad this season.

Tralee man Barnes will form a Kerry centre partnership with current Ireland Under-20 international JJ Hanrahan from Castleisland.

There is further pace aplenty in the shape of full-back Sean Scanlon and winger Luke O’Dea who has scored tries in three of his four RaboDirect PRO12 starts to date.

The Munster ‘A’ squad’s preparations included a game against a Development side at Musgrave Park three weeks ago which should have them primed for a strong showing.

Before the panel set off for the RDS, Costello said: “It’s going to be a hugely difficult assignment, we know that. Leinster ‘A’ at home in front of what we’re hearing will be a huge crowd.

“You don’t expect anything else at this stage of a competition against opposition like that. But we’ve a good squad, they’ve worked hard and I’m confident we’ll give a good account of oursleves.”

LEINSTER ‘A’: David Kearney; Andrew Conway, Brendan Macken, Colm O’Shea, Fionn Carr; Noel Reid, Luke McGrath; Jack McGrath, Aaron Dundon, Martin Moore, Damian Browne, Mark Flanagan, Rhys Ruddock (capt), Dominic Ryan, Leo Auva’a.

Replacements: Thomas Sexton, Jack O’Connell, Jordan Coughlan, Jordi Murphy, Matt Healy, Cathal Marsh, Andrew Boyle.

MUNSTER ‘A’: Sean Scanlon; Luke O’Dea, Danny Barnes, JJ Hanrahan, Ivan Dineen; Scott Deasy, Duncan Williams; Dave Kilcoyne, Sean Henry, John Ryan, Brian Hayes, Ian Nagle, Billy Holland (capt), Barry O’Mahony, Paddy Butler.

Replacements: Denis Fogarty, Peter Borlase, Philip Donnellan, Brian O’Hara, Cathal Sheridan, Declan Cusack, Ronan O’Mahony.

Referee: Ian Davies (Wales)
Assistant Referees: Mark Patton, Jonathan Peak (both Ireland)

Pre-Match Quotes: Colin McEntee (Leinster ‘A’) – “The British & Irish Cup competition has improved in quality progressively over the last number of years and it’s not too often that emerging players have the opportunity to play in front of what will hopefully be a big crowd at the RDS.

“So, the anticipation has risen over the last few days and the squad are in a good frame of mind for Friday’s test.

“Though we’re without a few players through injury, we’re pleased to be able to call upon several experienced players such as Damian (Browne) for what is going to be the biggest test that we have faced so far this season.

“Munster ‘A’ are a quality side and Ian (Costello) has done a fantastic job with them this year. They have a strong crop of emerging Irish talent on show, each of whom will be as keen as we are to win.

“It is vital in knockout rugby to take whatever chances come your way and we know that we will have to be accurate, aggressive and disciplined if we’re to progress to the final.

“It has been a long build up to the semi since the friendly against Connacht last month, and hopefully we can kick off a successful weekend for the province with a win.”

Ian Costello (Munster ‘A’) – “Of course it’s a huge ask to travel to the RDS to play the favourites. But it’s a challenge that we’re really looking forward to.

“We have a quality squad, we have worked extremely hard to get to this stage of the competition and there is real excitement building amongst the players.

“Leinster ‘A’ expect to have massive support on Good Friday at the RDS, and whereas we can have control over what happens on the field we’ll be looking to our supporters to turn up in numbers and maybe give us the sort of lift that Munster supporters are renowned for.”

Top Scorers – 2011/12 British & Irish Cup: Leinster ‘A’ – Points: Noel Reid 49; Tries: Brendan Macken 5, Leo Auva’a, Aaron Dundon, Conor Gilsenan 2 each; Munster ‘A’ – Points: Scott Deasy 30, JJ Hanrahan 22; Tries: Ronan O’Mahony, Simon Zebo, Dave Kilcoyne, Christy Condon, Peter Borlase, Paddy Butler, Sean Scanlon, Scott Deasy 1 each


LEINSTER ‘A’ – Pld 5, W4, D1, L0 – Pool 3: Won 32-18 away to Esher; Won 42-20 at home to Melrose; Won 19-13 away to Llanelli; Drew 24-24 at home to London Welsh; Quarter-final: Won 32-0 at home to Pontypridd

MUNSTER ‘A’ – Pld 5, W4, D0, L1 – Pool 2: Lost 10-6 at home to Cornish Pirates; Won 23-9 away to Neath; Won 9-3 at home to Ayr; Won 29-0 away to Moseley; Quarter-final: Won 20-9 away to Ulster Ravens


– Friday evening’s semi-final sees Leinster ‘A’ and Munster ‘A’ clash for only the sixth time at this level of rugby

– The Munstermen marginally have the better head-to-head record over the last decade with three wins to two, including victory in the last meeting, 19-7 at Donnybrook in September 2010

– Munster ‘A’ have only been beaten once in seven outings this season, their only defeat coming against Cornish Pirates (10-6 in November 2011)

– Leinster ‘A’ are bidding for a first ever appearance in the British & Irish Cup final having progressed to this stage with a comprehensive 32-0 home win over Pontypridd in the quarter-finals

– The winners of the Leinster ‘A’ v Munster ‘A’ game will host the winners of the second semi-final (Cross Keys v Cornish Pirates), meaning that for the first time in the competition’s history an Irish team will stage the cup final (on Saturday, April 28)