Derby was chance to lick our lips but goose cooked far too early
Rival fans want to see Heaslip v Stander and O’Brien v O’Mahony – not Leinster lite
Leinster head coach Leo Cullen. Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho
The Golden State Warriors faced the Cleveland Cavaliers on Christmas Day. A mid-season repeat of the NBA finals. The best basketballers on the planet – Lebron James, Steph Curry, Kevin Durant – were on all show.
It was the ideal promotion of a multi-billion dollar sport.
Munster played Leinster Lite on St Stephen’s Day.
These two teams guide the Guinness Pro12, a league in a perilously congested market considering French and English TV money, yet this fixture at this moment in the season all but guaranteed that this result was wrapped up and delivered before kick-off.
A full house in Thomond Park and the goose was cooked before the hour mark. Everyone feared this very happening as soon as the Leinster XV was announced.
Munster devoured them like they did in the old days.
But this occurred not because red has overtaken blue as the primary colour in Irish rugby. This happened because of avoidable circumstances.
The people wanted Jamie Heaslip versus CJ Stander. Seán O’Brien against Peter O’Mahony. And so on.
They even paid for it. Instead, they got an insight into the next generation; Jack Conan and Dan Leavy battling ably against a superior collective.
“If that’s their second strength team, that’s some team, especially from my point of view in the front row,” said Munster hooker Niall Scannell.
Who has lost his place to Jack McGrath.
McGrath was on ice because Leinster have a five-day turnaround to a home game against Ulster. Leinster were gifted one Ireland forward – the hugely combative Tadhg Furlong – as Munster and their full deck of internationals over-powered their fiercest rivals.
Placing this match at this moment in the season damages the league more than the provinces or Irish rugby in general.
“We had a strong enough team, we just weren’t accurate enough,” said Leo Cullen. “There were seven internationals in that pack.”
Very true but how many will start for Ireland in February? One, maybe two.
“The next game rolls around very quickly,” said Cullen.
“It was something we addressed when the fixture list came out. It is what it is.”
Everyone saw this coming. Everyone except those who paid for Munster versus Leinster, the real version.
Powers that be
So, the powers that be decreed that Leinster v Munster would be diluted, despite it being the Pro 12’s version of the Warriors v Cavs.
Put this game before both teams return to Europe and full metal jacket line-ups are guaranteed on both sides. Also, Ireland’s Six Nations campaign is over; Joe Schmidt is temporarily out of the equation.
“Yeah, perhaps,” said Cullen. “That’s well above my pay grade, unfortunately.”
Munster stay top of the Pro12. The crowd don’t get their moneys worth. Go figure.
Silver lining: Munster coach Rassie Erasmus all but confirmed Jaco Taute would be staying for the remainder of the season. “Just some crossing of the T’s and dotting of the I’s,” said the Springbok of his prized Springbok possession.
That’s another debate worth having.