An early season cracker is in prospect as the two best-placed provinces in the RaboDirect PRO12, Leinster and Munster, battle it out in front of a bumper Aviva Stadium crowd. Brian O’Driscoll was the match winner in this particular fixture last year, so who will step up to the mantle this time around?
RABODIRECT PRO12: Friday, November 4
LEINSTER (3rd) v MUNSTER (2nd), Aviva Stadium, 8pm (live TG4)
Team News: The Leinster team to face Munster in Friday night’s RaboDirect PRO12 derby encounter at the Aviva Stadium has been named.
Leo Cullen leads a Leinster team which includes 13 Ireland internationals for the visit of their arch rivals Munster to the home of Irish rugby.
Gordon D’Arcy is one of five players in total – including the back row trio of Jamie Heaslip, Shane Jennings and Sean O’Brien as well as prop Cian Healy – who will be making their seasonal debuts for Leinster after their involvement in the Rugby World Cup.
Isaac Boss again partners Jonathan Sexton at half-back, with D’Arcy linking up with Fergus McFadden at centre and Isa Nacewa returning to the right wing after being rested last week.
Up front, Healy joins Richardt Strauss and Mike Ross in the front row with skipper Cullen starting in the second row alongside Devin Toner.
Brian O’Driscoll, after further testing, has been given an extra week to recover from the ‘stinger’ he suffered during the World Cup.
The likes of Sean Cronin, Kevin McLaughlin, Eoin Reddan and Rhys Ruddock have been included on the replacements bench for the game which is already set to be played in front of over 46,000 supporters and counting, making it the third largest attendance in league history.
The current record attendance stands at 50,645 which was set for Leinster’s clash with Munster at the Aviva Stadium in October 2010.
The previous record crowd of 48,000 attended ‘The Last Stand’ – Leinster v Ulster – at Lansdowne Road on New Year’s Eve in 2006.
Tickets for Friday’s interprovincial derby between Leinster and Munster are still available to purchase online here, and you can also buy them from the Leinster Rugby Store (Donnybrook), Spar (Donnybrook) as well as Ticketmaster outlets nationwide.
* Please note that due to essential ongoing maintenance work at Lansdowne Road DART station, the station will not be in use for supporters on Friday.
Supporters are asked to alight from either Grand Canal Dock (those travelling from the north of the city) or Sydney Parade (those travelling from the south of the city) stations. The DART will not operate between Grand Canal Dock – Sydney Parade – Grand Canal Dock.
Meanwhile, Munster head coach Tony McGahan has made three changes in personnel to the team for this renewal of rivalries with Leinster.
In keeping the changes to a minimum, just of one of the alterations comes in the back-line where there is a straight swop – the more experienced Lifeimi Mafi has been preferred to Danny Barnes.
In the forwards it is as you were in the front row with hooker Damien Varley being joined by the South African pairing of Wian du Preez and BJ Botha.
In the second row, team captain Paul O’Connell has his regular partner Donncha O’Callaghan back alongside him. Donnacha Ryan, who started at lock in last weekend’s win over Aironi, is retained in the starting line-up but on the blindside flank.
Niall Ronan has been brought in at openside flanker at the expense of Peter O’Mahony, while Denis Leamy, another of the returning Rugby World Cup players, ousts James Coughlan for the number 8 jersey.
LEINSTER: Rob Kearney; Isa Nacewa, Fergus McFadden, Gordon D’Arcy, Luke Fitzgerald; Jonathan Sexton, Isaac Boss; Cian Healy, Richardt Strauss, Mike Ross, Leo Cullen (capt), Devin Toner, Sean O’Brien, Shane Jennings, Jamie Heaslip.
Replacements: Sean Cronin, Heinke van der Merwe, Jamie Hagan, Kevin McLaughlin, Rhys Ruddock, Eoin Reddan, Ian Madigan, Eoin O’Malley.
MUNSTER: Johne Murphy; Doug Howlett, Will Chambers, Lifeimi Mafi, Keith Earls; Ronan O’Gara, Conor Murray; Wian du Preez, Damien Varley, BJ Botha, Donncha O’Callaghan, Paul O’Connell (capt), Donnacha Ryan, Niall Ronan, Denis Leamy.
Replacements: Denis Fogarty, Marcus Horan, John Hayes, Peter O’Mahony, James Coughlan, Tomas O’Leary, Ian Keatley, Danny Barnes.
Referee: Pascal Gauzere (France)
Assistant Referees: David Wilkinson, Simon McDowell (both Ireland)
Television Match Official: Marshall Kilgore (Ireland)
Match Odds (Paddy Power): Leinster to win: 8/15; Draw: 18/1; Munster to win: 8/5
Pre-Match Quotes: Leo Cullen (Leinster) – “I think the Leinster-Munster games are special occasions because the supporters buy into them so much. The atmosphere is special whether that is in Dublin or down in Limerick at Thomond.
“There are a lot of different things that go into the melting pot. I don’t think it boils down to revenge for the last game. There are always so many different motivating factors in these games.
“There is the rivalry between two sets of players that have worked reasonably closely together over the last three or four months, competing against each other, as well. People want to put their case forward there as well.”
Paul O’Connell (Munster) – “It’s going to be a really tough game for us. It will let us know where we are. We’re going to be tested in every way. The scrum is going to be tested as is our lineout, fitness, physicality.
“It’s probably the highest level you can go in Europe at the moment – Leinster, with their record, with the playing squad they have.
“They play a good pressure game and there’s going to be a massive crowd there and a big, heaving atmosphere. So for us it’s going to be a great test and it will really let us know where we are and what we have to work on going into the two big weeks against Northampton and Castres.”
Top Scorers – 2011/12 RaboDirect PRO12: Leinster – Points: Isa Nacewa 70; Tries: Ian Madigan 3; Munster – Points: Ian Keatley 73; Tries: Danny Barnes 3
RECENT LEAGUE MEETINGS:
Saturday, October 3, 2009 – Leinster 30 Munster 0, the RDS
Friday, April 2, 2010 – Munster 15 Leinster 16, Thomond Park
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
– Leinster’s only defeat in their last six RaboDirect PRO12 matches was a 23-19 reversal at home to Glasgow Warriors on September 17
– Leinster have won their last nine matches in all competitions at the Lansdowne Road venue since Munster beat them there, in the 2006 Heineken Cup semi-final
– Munster’s two-match losing run came to an end with their 18-6 defeat of Aironi last Friday
– The Munstermen’s only previous league win at headquarters was when they beat Ulster 15-9 in the semi-final on December 8, 2001
– Munster have won their last six encounters with fellow Irish provinces. They won two of their three meetings with Leinster last season, including the grand final at Thomond Park on May 28
– Munster’s only win on Leinster soil since 2006 was at the RDS in September 2008