With neither side firing on all cylinders of late, Saturday’s crunch interprovincial clash at the Aviva Stadium offers both Leinster and Munster an opportunity to rediscover their best form and climb up the GUINNESS PRO12 table.
GUINNESS PRO12: Saturday, October 4
LEINSTER (5th) v MUNSTER (6th), Aviva Stadium, 6.30pm (live Sky Sports 2 HD)
Team News: Leinster have made three changes to their team for Saturday’s GUINNESS PRO12 derby showdown with Munster at the Aviva Stadium.
All of the switches are in the forwards with Jack McGrath and Mike Ross packing down either side of Sean Cronin who starts his fifth GUINNESS PRO12 match in a row at hooker.
The other change is in the second row where Mike McCarthy comes in to partner Devin Toner. The recently-arrived Kane Douglas, who made his Leinster debut against Cardiff Blues, is listed among the replacements.
Number 8 Jamie Heaslip captains the side in an unchanged back row, alongside flankers Rhys Ruddock and Dominic Ryan.
Gordon D’Arcy – Leinster’s man-of-the-match against Cardiff – is again selected at number 13, continuing his centre partnership with Ian Madigan. It will be D’Arcy’s 243rd cap for his native province.
Rob Kearney starts at full-back, while Darragh Fanning and Fergus McFadden continue on the left and right wing respectively.
Eoin Reddan and Jimmy Gopperth start at half-back once more, with Isaac Boss named on the bench having returned from an injury sustained before the Connacht game.
Tickets for the interprovincial derby are still on sale at www.leinsterrugby.ie/tickets, or can be purchased on the day from Ticketmaster vans located at Herbert Bridge and the Ballsbridge Hotel.
Meanwhile, Munster head coach Anthony Foley has included Peter O’Mahony and Damien Varley on the bench for the eagerly-awaited interpro clash in Dublin.
Foley has made a total of eight changes to the team that started last weekend’s defeat to the Ospreys at Thomond Park.
Hooker Damien Varley is also included after rehabbing an ongoing foot injury and he is in line to make his first appearance of the season.
In the front row James Cronin and Stephen Archer come in at loosehead and tighthead prop respectively, while Duncan Casey makes his fourth consecutive start at hooker.
David Foley also returns to the starting line-up and partners Paul O’Connell in the second row.
The back row sees CJ Stander make the positional switch to blindside flanker this week and he is joined by Tommy O’Donnell on the opposite flank and number 8 Robin Copeland who features in his first PRO12 interprovincial derby.
In the half-backs, Conor Murray and Ian Keatley remain in place from last weekend while Denis Hurley resumes his centre partnership with Andrew Smith who is promoted from the bench.
Andrew Conway retains his place on the right wing and is joined by Simon Zebo and captain Felix Jones in the back-three.
LEINSTER: Rob Kearney; Fergus McFadden, Gordon D’Arcy, Ian Madigan, Darragh Fanning; Jimmy Gopperth, Eoin Reddan; Jack McGrath, Sean Cronin, Mike Ross, Devin Toner, Mike McCarthy, Rhys Ruddock, Dominic Ryan, Jamie Heaslip (capt).
Replacements: Bryan Byrne, Michael Bent, Tadhg Furlong, Kane Douglas, Jack Conan, Isaac Boss, Steve Crosbie, Mick McGrath.
MUNSTER: Felix Jones (capt); Andrew Conway, Andrew Smith, Denis Hurley, Simon Zebo; Ian Keatley, Conor Murray; James Cronin, Duncan Casey, Stephen Archer, David Foley, Paul O’Connell, CJ Stander, Tommy O’Donnell, Robin Copeland.
Replacements: Damien Varley, David Kilcoyne, BJ Botha, Billy Holland, Peter O’Mahony, Duncan Williams, JJ Hanrahan, Gerhard van den Heever.
Referee: Ian Davies (Wales)
Assistant Referees: David Wilkinson, Mark Patton (both Ireland)
Television Match Official: Simon McDowell (Ireland)
Match Odds (Paddy Power): Leinster to win: 1/3; Draw: 20/1; Munster to win: 23/10
Pre-Match Quotes: Gordon D’Arcy (Leinster) – “I had a great chat with Matt (O’Connor). I’ve a great relationship with him and wherever he feels on a weekly basis he wants to play me, I have no preference. I’m just happy enough to play and I want to play. Wherever that is, I’m happy enough.
“We’re not trying to replace the irreplaceable (at outside centre). It’s kind of what Brendan Rodgers was talking about when (Liverpool) lost (Luis) Suarez – you don’t try and replace him, you just try and build him up in the accumulation through the squad.
“That’s what we’ll do. Ferg (McFadden) played there at 13, we’re going to have Lukey (Fitzgerald) back at some stage, Brendan (Macken), myself, Noel (Reid), Ben Te’o’s coming. Everybody will chip in, everybody will do their part. We’ll hopefully make up for him (Brian O’Driscoll) in the stats over the season, if that’s possible.
“The great thing about being this old is that you have plenty of experience. I know if you go in half-cocked against Munster then you’ll get absolutely blown out the gate.
“I know their leadership group, I know their players well enough that they will be absolutely spitting fire after their last game (losing to the Ospreys) and they’ll be looking for a reaction.
“It’s about the physicality, it’s about trying to create that go-forward ball. They will bring that to the game and the challenge to us is that we don’t get caught napping. We’re physically ready and mentally ready for the battle.”
Robin Copeland (Munster) – “There were lots of reasons why I came home and why I joined here (Munster). The main one was to try and win trophies and try and work my way into the starting team and eventually into a green jersey. They are the big goals.
“Playing well in these games is a big part of that, so yeah I guess there is a responsibility and expectation to perform. Yeah, for these big occasions, you have to bring your ‘A’ game.
“I don’t think my performances in the past few weeks have been fantastic. I feel that it does take a while to settle into a new team. It is new moves, new players, new everything.
“They don’t know what I can do, I don’t know what they are going to do. It is a different structure, a different culture. It does take a while.
“I am not putting myself under any pressure to get those man-of-the-match performances straight away. I just want to get my roles right, do what is best for the team, get in right positions, defend well and do what I have to, before I can do the spectacular.
“I think we have the players, the structures, the game plan to put it up to any team. Maybe we are two or three percent off and once we get that final click, I think we are going to really start playing some very good rugby. Everything we need is there. It is just a matter of time when that click is going to come.”
Top Scorers – 2014/15 GUINNESS PRO12: Leinster – Points: Ian Madigan 51; Tries: Rob Kearney, Ian Madigan 2 each; Munster – Points: Ian Keatley 23; Tries: Simon Zebo 4
RECENT LEAGUE MEETINGS:
Friday, November 4, 2011 – Leinster 24 Munster 19, Aviva Stadium
Saturday, March 31, 2012 – Munster 9 Leinster 18, Thomond Park
Saturday, October 6, 2012 – Leinster 30 Munster 21, Aviva Stadium
Saturday, April 13, 2013 – Munster 16 Leinster 22, Thomond Park
Sunday, October 5, 2013 – Munster 19 Leinster 15, Thomond Park
Saturday, March 29, 2014 – Munster 22 Leinster 18, Aviva Stadium
– All four of Leinster’s GUINNESS PRO12 matches this season have been won by the home side on the day, while they have a perfect played 13, won 13 record at Lansdowne Road/Aviva Stadium in the history of the PRO12
– Munster have a won two, lost two record in the GUINNESS PRO12 this season despite playing three of the four games at Thomond Park
– The Munstermen have won their last three regular season away matches in the league
– Munster have lost on their last five visits to the Aviva Stadium (all against Leinster and all in the PRO12) since beating their arch rivals there in the semi-final of the European Cup in April 2006
– Munster’s only victory over Leinster since the 2011 final came in Limerick in round 5 last season
– The Munstermen have not won a game in Dublin since a visit to the RDS in the PRO12 in September 2008