Provincial matters are key today
At any rate, with their running game and emphasis on width still in its infancy, Munster hardly look sufficiently grizzled and gnarled up front to do the kind of old-fashioned number they did on Leinster in the league decider two seasons ago.
While the standard of the fixture has been remarkably high given the familiarity between them, last season’s meetings weren’t exactly epics. Perhaps we’re becoming spoilt, but in any event the huge desire and physicality on both sides, coupled with that familiarity, has seen the clashes become more of an arm wrestle.
Although Leinster completed a deserving League double last season, their points were solely by dint of Jonathan Sexton’s boot, and they have failed to score a try in the sides’ last three meetings. That being said, they have also won seven of the last nine meetings beginning with that seismic Heineken Cup semi-final win in Croke Park four seasons ago, in which time Munster have only scored four tries.
It’s still remarkable to think that as recently as nine years ago this fixture didn’t sell–out Donnybrook (and the return was held in Musgrave Park). They’ve since outgrown both venues and also the RDS.
The European champions have won six games out of six at the rebuilt Lansdowne Road, and that includes a brace of hard-earned wins over Munster. Both teams would love a big performance and, ideally, a win, but all in all, Leinster look better equipped to obtain a timely pre-Euro fillip.
LEINSTER: I Madigan; A Conway, B O’Driscoll, F McFadden, I Nacewa; J Sexton, E Reddan; H van der Merwe, R Strauss, M Ross; D Browne, D Toner; K McLaughlin, S Jennings, J Heaslip (capt). Replacements: S Cronin, J McGrath, J Hagan, T Denton, J Murphy, J Cooney, N Reid, F Carr.
MUNSTER: D Hurley; D Howlett (capt), K Earls, C Laulala, S Zebo; R O’Gara, C Murray; D Kilcoyne, M Sherry, BJ Botha; Donncha O’Callaghan, D Ryan; Dave O’Callaghan, S Dougall, P O’Mahony. Replacements: D Varley, W du Preez, S Archer, B Holland, P Butler, D Williams, I Keatley, J Downey.
Referee: Leighton Hodges(WRU).
League Head-to-Head: Played 19, Leinster 11 wins, Munster 8 wins.
Last five meetings: (2010-11) Leinster 13 Munster 9; Munster 24 Leinster 23; (league final) Munster 19 Leinster 9; (2011-12) Leinster 24 Munster 19; Munster 9 Leinster 18.
Leading try scorers: Leinster– Brendan Macken 3. Munster– Ian Keatley 2.
Leading points scorers: Leinster– Ian Madigan 39. Munster– Ian Keatley 54.
Betting(Paddy Power): 4/11 Leinster, 22/1 Draw, 9/4 Munster. Handicap odds (Munster +7 pts) 10/11 Leinster, 20/1 Draw, 10/11 Munster.
Forecast: Leinster to win.
Ticket sales were reaching the 45,000 mark yesterday and tickets are still on sale online from www.leinsterrugby.ie, the Leinster Rugby Store (Donnybrook), Spar (Donnybrook) as well as Ticketmaster outlets nationwide. There will be tickets on sale from 2.30pm today from the Clyde Court Hotel (formerly The Berkeley Court).