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RaboDirect PRO12 Preview: Munster v Leinster

RaboDirect PRO12 Preview: Munster v Leinster

With the Heineken Cup looming large on the horizon, there is nothing like a ferociously intense interprovincial derby to prepare for European combat and that is what awaits Munster and Leinster at Thomond Park on Saturday.

RABODIRECT PRO12: Saturday, October 5

MUNSTER (3rd) v LEINSTER (4th), Thomond Park, 6.45pm (live RTÉ Two)

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Team News: Paul O’Connell and Felix Jones, who both returned to action with Munster last weekend, will make their first starts of the season in Saturday’s RaboDirect PRO12 derby against Leinster at Thomond Park.

Further positive news sees the return of BJ Botha and Conor Murray who are both named on the province’s replacements bench.

Prop Botha, who sustained a knee injury in Munster’s pre-season game against London Irish, has displayed great commitment to the rehab programme set out by the medical staff in getting match ready for the round five fixture.

Head coach Rob Penney has opted to start the fit-again Jones at full-back on Saturday, with Keith Earls switching to the right wing as Casey Laulala and James Downey resume their centre partnership.

With the return of 2013 Lion Murray, Cathal Sheridan misses out this week with Duncan Williams starting alongside Ian Keatley at half-back.

Stepping up for his first start of the season, O’Connell joins Donnacha Ryan in the second row pairing, while young captain Peter O’Mahony, Niall Ronan and James Coughlan form the back row.

Tickets are currently on sale for Saturday’s game online here, from the Munster Rugby ticket offices in Thomond Park and Musgrave Park, or by calling Ticketmaster on 0818 719300.

Please note tickets will be on sale on matchday from 9am from the Ticketmaster van at Hassett’s Cross and from 4.45pm from the West Stand ticket office.

Meanwhile, Jamie Heaslip will captain Leinster for the 15th time for the trip to Limerick which will mark his 168th appearance for the province.

The Naas man is named in a back row which includes fellow Ireland international Kevin McLaughlin and the returning Sean O’Brien.

Mike McCarthy locks down alongside Devin Toner in an all-Ireland qualified pack, with Cian Healy named in the front row alongside hooker Sean Cronin and Mike Ross.

Ian Madigan starts at out-half and will make his 85th appearance, linking up with Eoin Reddan at half-back.

The squad are boosted by the return of several players including Australian Lote Tuqiri who starts at outside centre alongside Gordon D’Arcy in a new-look midfield.

Brian O’Driscoll picked up a minor calf strain in training this week and will be assessed by the medical team over the coming days regarding his availability for next weekend’s opening Heineken Cup clash away to the Ospreys.

Leinster’s Young Player of the Year last season, Jordi Murphy, has undergone a procedure on an ankle injury and will be out for a number of weeks.

The back-three is unchanged with Rob Kearney continuing at full-back alongside his brother David and Fergus McFadden.

Luke Fitzgerald is named on the replacements bench having been sidelined since the opening round victory over the Scarlets.

Fitzgerald is included alongside fellow backs Isaac Boss and Jimmy Gopperth, with young flanker Dominic Ryan standing back to win his 50th Leinster cap.

MUNSTER: Felix Jones; Keith Earls, Casey Laulala, James Downey, Simon Zebo; Ian Keatley, Duncan Williams; David Kilycoyne, Mike Sherry, Stephen Archer, Donncha Ryan, Paul O’Connell, Peter O’Mahony (capt), Niall Ronan, James Coughlan.

Replacements: Damien Varley, James Cronin, BJ Botha, Donncha O’Callaghan, CJ Stander, Conor Murray, JJ Hanrahan, Denis Hurley.

LEINSTER: Rob Kearney; Fergus McFadden, Lote Tuqiri, Gordon D’Arcy, David Kearney; Ian Madigan, Eoin Reddan; Cian Healy, Sean Cronin, Mike Ross, Mike McCarthy, Devin Toner, Kevin McLaughlin, Sean O’Brien, Jamie Heaslip (capt).

Replacements: Aaron Dundon, Jack McGrath, Martin Moore, Rhys Ruddock, Dominic Ryan, Isaac Boss, Jimmy Gopperth, Luke Fitzgerald.

Referee: Romain Poite (France)
Assistant Referees: Stuart Gaffikin, Michael Black (both Ireland)
Television Match Official: Simon McDowell (Ireland)

Match Odds (Paddy Power): Munster to win: 6/4; Draw: 20/1; Leinster to win: 4/7

Pre-Match Quotes: James Downey (Munster) – “I think it can mean more to us (facing our home province). There’s a good few Leinster fellas there now (in the Munster squad) and you want to prove something sometimes.

“Obviously, the Munster lads are pumped up and don’t need anything extra to get up for this, we have that extra bit.

“I’d always like to think that I can bring something extra, to maybe just prove that I’m from there as well and this is what I could have done or whatever.

“Definitely (we’re in a better place now compared to this time last year). I think last year everyone was trying to learn the new plays and get used to the new coaches, but this time we are hitting the season running.

“We’re way, way ahead, there is no comparison to last season. Lads know what they are doing, we can get a lot more done and add a few more strings to our bow that Rob (Penney) will bring in now.”

Matt O’Connor (Leinster) – “The attitude in training that I witnessed on Monday and Tuesday this week certainly means it (the derby game against Munster) is right up there in relation to how much it means to the guys.

“It gives us a benchmark. It’s more about the result than the four points in the league. It’s bragging rights and it’s really important to all those involved. That is not that different to the Heineken Cup.

“You have to be at the very edge of your performance to get the result in the Heineken Cup. In that regard, this is the perfect dress rehearsal for us.

“I’ve had a look at the games from last year. The one at Thomond Park was of particular interest. It was a very keenly-fought contest. There was a lot of bloodshed.

“We’re under no illusion as to how tough we are going to have to be to go down there and get a result. It will tell both camps a lot about where they are leading into Europe.”

Les Kiss (Ireland assistant coach) – “This is the real mettle. That’s where you test yourself. It rivals the intensity of the Heineken Cup and it is where we begin to get clues ahead of November (and the GUINNESS Series).

“November is not far away and we’re looking forward to this weekend because, while these types of game are not what you select finally on, you certainly see some guys up against each other and see where they are.

“It is about game-time now, particularly for the Lions players, and it should be one hell of a game at the weekend for sure. It is getting closer and closer, the players know it and the stakes are rising.

“Players know that decisions will be based on performances. How they perform with their province, how they perform in training and feedback from their coaches.

“Put your hands up and you have a chance. We are not wiping anyone out, everybody has a chance.”

Top Scorers – 2013/14 RaboDirect PRO12: Munster – Points: JJ Hanrahan 41; Tries: CJ Stander, James Cronin 2 each; Leinster – Points: Jimmy Gopperth 42; Tries: David Kearney 2


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
Saturday, October 6, 2012 – Leinster 30 Munster 21, Aviva Stadium
Saturday, April 13, 2013 – Munster 16 Leinster 22, Thomond Park


– Munster’s only loss in their last five RaboDirect PRO12 contests came in round 3 in Treviso

– The Munstermen have suffered just one reversal at Thomond Park in any competition since April 2012: 22-16 to Leinster in this equivalent fixture last season

– Leinster’s only defeat in their last dozen matches in all tournaments was 12-6 at table-topping Glasgow on September 20

– The Leinstermen have won four of their last six away games against fellow Irish provinces

– Munster have been defeated in their last four fixtures against Leinster since Munster prevailed in the 2011 league final in Limerick

– Leinster are going for a third successive victory on Munster soil for the first time since 1971