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Leinster Rugby vs Munster Rugby
Guinness Pro12 Round 5
Aviva Stadium, Dublin,
Saturday, 4th October 2014, 18:30

Television: Live Sky Sports 2, Highlights TG4 22:30

Rarely has a Leinster-Munster inter-pro derby been approached by both sides with such gloom. Every time we hear the sports news it's seems another player is being sent for surgery. This week it was Sean O'Brien for Leinster and Keith Earls for Munster which will rule them out for large chunks of the season. Both players have been haunted by injury in recent seasons and you have the awful sense that two of Ireland's brightest talents are slowly being lost to us.

Leinster and Munster are far from the only ones getting hit with injuries though, Ulster and Connacht have been hit heavily too. In fact there seems to be players getting crocked throughout the professional game and you begin to wonder if the intense physicality in the modern game is simply becoming too much for players' bodies to withstand.

Aside from the bad injury news, neither side will be cheered by their form coming into the match either. Munster have lost twice at home to Edinburgh and Ospreys and their only wins have come against the weak Italian teams. New head coach Anthony Foley and his team seem to be trying to revert to a more traditional Munster game, but the performances have been so poor it's pretty difficult to tell exactly what they're trying to do.

Leinster have been marginally better, but only marginally. Last week against Cardiff, they gave another performance which has typified the Matt O'Connor era with a few moments of quality sprinkled into a sea of dross. In particular, the kicking tactics of the team were unfathomable and someone really needs to ask O'Connor what his obsession with cross-kicks is about because they simply never work. Once again he got lucky with a last minute bonus point try that came from broken play, but surely his luck will run out at some point?

O'Connor has named a team which shows three changes from last week. All three changes come in the front five where Jack McGrath and Mike Ross return at prop and Mike McCarthy comes into the second row. The return of McGrath is particularly welcome considering that Cian Healy will now miss most of the season. Leinster are very lucky to have such a quality replacement and it should mean that they won't struggle in the scrum as much as they did in last season's game in the Aviva.

Munster aren't in great shape either and new head coach Anthony Foley could really do with a win. He's been boosted at least by the return of Damien Varley and skipper Peter O'Mahony from injury and they are both on the bench. He's named a starting team which shows eight changes from the team that began against the Ospreys. In the front row James Cronin and Stephen Archer come in to the props positions, with Duncan Casey staying at hooker. Dave Foley comes in to partner Paul O'Connell in the second row. In the back row CJ Stander switches to blindside and Tommy O'Donnell and number 8 Robin Copeland come into a unit that certainly isn't short of powerful ball carriers.

Conor Murray and Ian Keatley stay at half back but Australian Andrew Smith comes in to partner Denis Hurley in the centre. Former Leinster player Andrew Conway retains his place on the right wing but Simon Zebo comes in on the left. Another former Leinster player Felix Jones comes in at full back and he captains the team from there. All-in-all it's a strong looking team.

It's been said these games normally spark a season and get things going and both sets of fans will at the very least be looking for an improved performance.

It's going to be tight as always but Leinster will probably have enough to win it.

Team Lineups

Leinster Rugby
Munster Rugby
Teams Rob Kearney 15 Felix Jones (C)
Fergus McFadden 14 Andrew Conway
Gordon D'Arcy 13 Andrew Smith
Ian Madigan 12 Denis Hurley
Darragh Fanning 11 Simon Zebo
Jimmy Gopperth 10 Ian Keatley
Eoin Reddan 9 Conor Murray

Jack McGrath 1 James Cronin
Sean Cronin 2 Duncan Casey
Mike Ross 3 Stephen Archer
Devin Toner
4 Dave Foley
Mike McCarthy 5 Paul O'Connell
Rhys Ruddock6 CJ Stander
Dominic Ryan 7 Tommy O'Donnell
Jamie Heaslip (C)
8 Robin Copeland

Replacements Bryan Byrne 16 Damien Varley
Michael Bent 17 Dave Kilcoyne
Tadhg Furlong 18 BJ Botha
Kane Douglas 19 Billy Holland
Jack Conan
Peter O'Mahony
Isaac Boss 21 Duncan Williams
Steve Crosbie 22 JJ Hanrahan
Mick McGrath 23 Gerhard van den Heever

Not Considered
due to Injury
Luke Fitzgerald,
Aaron Dundon,
Jordi Murphy,
Richardt Strauss,
Dave Kearney,
Dan Leavy,
Noel Reid,
Zane Kirchner,
Shane Jennings,
Sean O'Brien,
Cian Healy

Keith Earls,
Donncha Ryan,
Mike Sherry,
Tyler Bylendaal,
Niall Scannell,
Dave O'Callaghan,
Johnny Holland,
Paddy Butler
Officials Referee: Ian Davies (WRU, 20th competition game),
Assistant Referees: David Wilkinson, Mark Patton (both IRFU),
Citing Commissioner: John West (IRFU),
TMO: Simon Mc Dowell (IRFU)

by Jim O'Connor, © 2014-10-03