The second Irish interprovincial game of the weekend will see Leinster and Munster both attempting to bounce back from defeats last time out. Will news of Joe Schmidt’s contract extension act as a spur for the men in blue, or can Munster end their winless run in derby fixtures in Dublin?
RABODIRECT PRO12: Saturday, October 6
LEINSTER (8th) v MUNSTER (3rd), Aviva Stadium, 6.30pm (live TG4)
Team News: The Leinster team to face Munster in Saturday evening’s RaboDirect PRO12 derby encounter at the Aviva Stadium has been named.
Ian Madigan, Fergus McFadden, Heinke van der Merwe and Shane Jennings are the only survivors from the Leinster side that lost 34-6 to Connacht last time out.
With Rob Kearney and Gordon D’Arcy both sidelined, Madigan reverts to the full-back position with Jonathan Sexton and Eoin Reddan restored as the province’s starting half-backs.
McFadden also switches position, moving to inside centre to partner the returning Brian O’Driscoll. The wing spots are filled by Andrew Conway and Isa Nacewa.
Jamie Heaslip will lead team on his 150th career appearance for the province, flanked by two fellow Ireland internationals, Jennings and Kevin McLaughlin, in the back row.
Devin Toner and Damian Browne will combine in the second row, while prop van der Merwe will be joined by Richardt Strauss and Mike Ross in the first line of Leinster’s scrum. Cian Healy is unavailable due to a bicep strain.
Ticket sales for Saturday’s game are fast approaching the 45,000 mark. Tickets are still on sale online here, and are available to buy from the Leinster Rugby Store (Donnybrook) and Spar (Donnybrook) as well as Ticketmaster outlets nationwide.
There will be tickets on sale from 2.30pm on Saturday from the Clyde Court Hotel (formerly the Berkeley Court) near the ground.
Meanwhile, Munster head coach Rob Penney has altered his starting line-up for this much-anticipated trip to the capital, making six changes to the side that lost to the Ospreys.
All of those changes come up front, three of them involving players were on the bench for the game in Swansea last weekend. Injuries to Niall Ronan (groin) and Marcus Horan (eye) were the other considerations.
Munster’s starting back-line remains the same with captain Doug Howlett leading the side out on the occasion of his 100th competitive appearance for the province.
Ronan picked up a slight groin injury in training on Thursday, while Horan continues to recover from a cut under the eye that he received in an Ulster Bank League outing for Shannon.
That means a second start in an interprovincial derby this season for young prop David Kilcoyne, who also lined out against Ulster last month. The 23-year-old comes in for Wian du Preez who drops to the replacements bench.
Elsewhere, Ireland internationals Donnacha Ryan and Peter O’Mahony return to the starting line-up for the first time this season.
David O’Calllaghan also resumes at blindside flanker, a position he impressed in during three of Munster’s recent games against Benetton Treviso, Ulster and the Newport Gwent Dragons.
LEINSTER: Ian Madigan; Andrew Conway, Brian O’Driscoll, Fergus McFadden, Isa Nacewa; Jonathan Sexton, Eoin Reddan; Heinke van der Merwe, Richardt Strauss, Mike Ross, Damian Browne, Devin Toner, Kevin McLaughlin, Shane Jennings, Jamie Heaslip (capt).
Replacements: Sean Cronin, Jack McGrath, Jamie Hagan, Tom Denton, Jordi Murphy, John Cooney, Noel Reid, Fionn Carr.
MUNSTER: Denis Hurley; Doug Howlett (capt, Keith Earls, Casey Laulala, Simon Zebo; Ronan O’Gara, Conorr Murray; David Kilcoyne, Mike Sherry, BJ Botha, Donncha O’Callaghan, Donnacha Ryan, David O’Callaghan, Sean Dougall, Peter O’Mahony.
Replacements: Damien Varley, Wian du Preez, Stephen Archer, Billy Holland, Paddy Butler, Duncan Williams, Ian Keatley, James Downey.
Referee: Leighton Hodges (Wales)
Assistant Referees: David Wilkinson, Simon McDowell (both Ireland)
Television Match Official: Marshall Kilgore (Ireland)
Match Odds (Paddy Power): Leinster to win: 4/11; Draw: 22/1; Munster to win: 12/5
Pre-Match Quotes: Jonathan Sexton (Leinster) – “It’s not about me versus Ronan (O’Gara). It’s Leinster versus Munster. That’s the way. I’ve never looked at it as a one-on-one battle like a loosehead versus a tighthead.
“There are so many other things going on around you. Often it’s very unfair to compare player against player after a game because one pack is on top or the other pack is on top and there are so many things that you rely on. So I’ve never really looked at it as a one-on-one battle.
“I’ve had a lot of really big games against Munster and they all seem to be the same. They all seem to come down to the last 10 or 15 minutes bar one or two games.
“They’re special and I always get texts from uncles saying, ‘I hope you play well, score a bag full of points, get man-of-the-match and lose’, so that’s the way it is. It’s different for me but they always support me.”
Doug Howlett (Munster) – “(The loss to the Ospreys) was probably the little bit of a wake-up we needed. A real challenging game like this (Leinster) is what we need to really find out where we are and these interpros give you exactly that.
“We had a little taste of that recently against Ulster. We were short by one point (up at Ravenhill). A torrid affair at that and we’re expecting the same against this week.
“It’s a great honour to have reached the 100-cap mark and I’m delighted to be up there with the others who achieved the same.
“I think it reflects really on how much my family and I have been made welcome and are enjoying our time here in Munster. It’s also a reflection on the excellent management and care of players by the Munster medical and strength and conditioning staff and I’d like to acknowledge that fact.”
Top Scorers – 2012/13 RaboDirect PRO12: Leinster – Points: Ian Madigan 39; Tries: Brendan Macken 3; Munster – Points: Ian Keatley 54; Tries: Ian Keatley 2
RECENT LEAGUE MEETINGS:
Saturday, May 15, 2010 – Semi-final – Leinster 16 Munster 6, the RDS
Saturday, October 2, 2010 – Leinster 13 Munster 9, Aviva Stadium
Saturday, April 2, 2011 – Munster 24 Leinster 23, Thomond Park
Saturday, May 28, 2011 – Grand final – Munster 19 Leinster 9, Thomond Park
Friday, November 4, 2011 – Leinster 24 Munster 19, Aviva Stadium
Saturday, March 31, 2012 – Munster 9 Leinster 18, Thomond Park
– Leinster suffered their largest RaboDirect PRO12 defeat for almost five years at Connacht last Friday evening (34-6), however they have not lost successive encounters against the fellow Irish provinces since the 2008/9 season
– The Leinstermen have a 100% winning record in their 11 previous league matches at the Aviva Stadium or Lansdowne Road
– Munster’s last four matches have all been won by the home side on the day, while their only victory on the road in their last five games came at Edinburgh in round 1
– The Munstermen have lost on their last three visits to the Aviva Stadium or Lansdowne Road
– Leinster have won seven of their last nine meetings with Munster in all competitions