Jump to main content


RaboDirect PRO12 Preview: Leinster v Munster

RaboDirect PRO12 Preview: Leinster v Munster

Many of Ireland’s Six Nations heroes will return to action when arch rivals Leinster and Munster meet in Saturday’s RaboDirect PRO12 top of the table clash, with the match serving as an ideal warm-up for the sides’ European quarter-finals next week.

RABODIRECT PRO12: Saturday, March 29

LEINSTER (1st) v MUNSTER (2nd), Aviva Stadium, 7pm (live TG4/RTÉ Radio 1/worldwide coverage details)

Google Ad Manager – 300×250 – In Article

Team News: The Leinster team to take on Munster in Saturday’s RaboDirect PRO12 derby at the Aviva Stadium has been named by head coach Matt O’Connor and it is a side full of Ireland internationals.

There is also a welcome return for a number of players who won the Six Nations title with Ireland in recent weeks.

However, with the majority of them only returning to Leinster training last Monday, a few have been held back with an eye on next week and giving them an additional week to recover.

Although niggling injuries are persisting for Cian Healy, Jack McGrath, Marty Moore and Tadhg Furlong, the front row is still made up of Ireland internationals with Michael Bent, Richardt Strauss, who is set for cap number 90, and Mike Ross selected.

Devin Toner and Mike McCarthy make up the second row combination, Toner fresh from a first full Six Nations campaign with Ireland.

Jamie Heaslip is back to captain the side from number 8, with Kevin McLaughlin and Shane Jennings completing the Leinster pack.

There is plenty of experience in the backs as well with last weekend’s centurion Ian Madigan again selected at number 10, with Eoin Reddan beside him and closing in on his own century – Saturday’s sold-out game will be the 98th Leinster cap for the Limerick man.

The starting wingers are Luke Fitzgerald and Fergus McFadden with Gordon D’Arcy and Brian O’Driscoll back to continue their record-breaking centre partnership.

Rob Kearney returns to fill the full-back spot, with South African Zane Kirchner on the replacements bench.

Otherwise, Rhys Ruddock is still nursing a calf injury and Dave Kearney took a knock in training on Thursday and is another international who will not be risked for this game.

Both players will be assessed again early next week but three other Six Nations winners – Jordi Murphy, Sean Cronin and Isaac Boss – are included in the matchday 23.

The interprovincial derby at the Aviva Stadium is sold out with numbers presently at 51,157 – the final attendance will be confirmed on the night.

Meanwhile, Munster head coach Rob Penney has made 10 changes to the team that beat Benetton Treviso last weekend.

Paul O’Connell, Peter O’Mahony, Conor Murray and Tommy O’Donnell all return to the side after helping Ireland win the Six Nations title.

Ian Keatley, man-of-the-match when Munster beat Leinster 19-15 at Thomond Park in October. returns to the side to partner Murray at half-back.

Keatley will be looking to reach 500 points for the province, having scored 497 points in his 67 appearances to date.

Denis Hurley comes in to partner Casey Laulala in the centre with Laulala set to make his 47th appearance after less than two years at the province.

Simon Zebo is named on the left wing and will earn his 60th Munster cap with Keith Earls, who made a try-scoring return from injury against Treviso, and full-back Felix Jones retaining their places.

Props David Kilcoyne and BJ Botha are both drafted into the starting line-up to join hooker Damien Varley in the front row.

O’Connell, who missed the Treviso clash with a slight shoulder niggle, joins David Foley in the second row with captain O’Mahony coming into a back row that also includes O’Donnell and number 8 James Coughlan.

Duncan Casey, James Cronin and Alan Cotter are the front row replacements, while record caps holder Donncha O’Callaghan and CJ Stander complete the cover in the forwards.

Duncan Williams, JJ Hanrahan and Gerhard van den Heever are also named in the matchday squad and will be hoping to make an impact off the bench.

On the injury front, Donnacha Ryan is wearing a protective boot after a specialist identified a strain under his right foot. It is not a common injury and will need to be treated and monitored on a week-to-week basis.

Cotter is included on the bench after Stephen Archer pulled up in training yesterday, while fellow prop John Ryan is progressing well following return-to-play protocols after a concussion against Treviso.

LEINSTER: Rob Kearney; Fergus McFadden, Brian O’Driscoll, Gordon D’Arcy, Luke Fitzgerald; Ian Madigan, Eoin Reddan; Michael Bent, Richardt Strauss, Mike Ross, Devin Toner, Mike McCarthy, Kevin McLaughlin, Shane Jennings, Jamie Heaslip (capt).

Replacements: Sean Cronin, Jack O’Connell, Edward Byrne, Leo Cullen, Jordi Murphy, Isaac Boss, Jimmy Gopperth, Zane Kirchner.

MUNSTER: Felix Jones; Keith Earls, Casey Laulala, Denis Hurley, Simon Zebo; Ian Keatley, Conor Murray; David Kilcoyne, Damien Varley, BJ Botha, David Foley, Paul O’Connell, Peter O’Mahony (capt), Tommy O’Donnell, James Coughlan.

Replacements: Duncan Casey, James Cronin, Alan Cotter, Donncha O’Callaghan, CJ Stander, Duncan Williams, JJ Hanrahan, Gerhard van den Heever.

Referee: Alain Rolland (Ireland)
Assistant Referees: David Wilkinson, Michael Black (both Ireland)
Television Match Official: Simon McDowell (Ireland)

Match Odds (Paddy Power): Leinster to win: 4/11; Draw: 25/1; Munster to win: 9/4

Pre-Match Quotes: Devin Toner (Leinster) – “From a personal point of view, I feel pretty refreshed and rejuvenated. It’s always refreshing to come back into camp and see the lads who you haven’t seen for a while, get to know the systems, getting back to what you know.

“This is the first year I played all the games in the Six Nations, so it was really good getting back to the lads and getting back to what you know.

“You could say confidence is quite high personally, from playing well. It is obviously good having that confidence coming into the tail-end of the season and these massive games. I think it is going to stand to me.

“You could get a bit over emotional. The main thing about these games is being clinical and being accurate and getting your roles right. That is the first job you have to do.

“Obviously you have to bring emotion into it but there is a chance you can be too emotional and a bit too riled up.

“I wouldn’t say it’s personal. It’s quite obvious what a massive game it is and Leinster-Munster is huge every time. Obviously you want to get on top every time. Every player knows it’s going to be hugely physical, hugely intense.”

James Coughlan (Munster) – “The local derby is always special, regardless of whether it’s Leinster, Ulster or Connacht. They’re always big games.

“You want to play against the best, test yourself against the best and to be fair to Leinster, they have proved over the last few years that they’re probably the best around. It’s up to us to rectify that and that’s the build-up for the week.

“Supporters can get caught up in these things but being professional means you focus on your own job. I’m sure they’re on a high, the (Leinster) lads that were involved (with Ireland).

“But, so are we – Paulie (O’Connell) was captain, Peter (O’Mahony) had an unbelievable series – man-of-the-match in one game – and Conor (Murray) is probably the best scrum half in the world right now.

“Naturally we would like to have more guys up there but the only way that will change is if we win these big games, so that’s our focus. If we get caught up in the individual contests, we’ll lose focus of what we’re supposed to be doing.

“Maybe in the past we have been guilty of that a small bit, getting caught up in trying to prove somebody else wrong.

“We’re simply looking at where we can exploit them the same way as they will be looking at areas where they can exploit us.

“It’s going to be a battle of attrition and sometimes on these occasions it’s the best defence that wins, so it’s about not making mistakes and keeping them under pressure, trying to keep the penalty count down because both sides have kickers who will knock them over.”

Top Scorers – 2013/14 RaboDirect PRO12: Leinster – Points: Jimmy Gopperth 109; Tries: Noel Reid 5; Munster – Points: JJ Hanrahan 136; Tries: Simon Zebo 4


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
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


– Leinster have won their last nine matches in all competitions and have dropped only two points out of a possible thirty in their last six RaboDirect PRO12 fixtures

– The Leinstermen have lost their last two fixtures at the Aviva Stadium – both of these games were in the Heineken Cup – however, they have won all twelve previous league games they have played at the Lansdowne Road venue

– Munster’s only defeat in their last seven matches in all competitions was 18-13 at the Scarlets in round 16 of the PRO12

– The Munstermen have lost on their last four visits to the home of Irish rugby since they beat Leinster at the old Lansdowne Road in a Heineken Cup semi-final in 2006

– Munster beat Leinster 19-15 at Thomond Park in round 5 and are going for a first regular season double over their fiercest rivals since the 2008/09 campaign