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Leinster Rugby vs Munster Rugby
Royal Dublin Showground, Dublin 4
Saturday, 12 April 2008, 18:30

Television: Live - Setanta Ireland
Season Ticket: Magners League 8

It's unusual to have this particular derby so late in the season, but it's no harm to the level of interest in the game. Once again Leinster face a first against second play-off as in recent games against Cardiff and Llanelli Scarlets. Leinster won both those battles and another win on Saturday would go a long way towards winning the title for the first time in six years.

There was an opinion, amongst certain Munster fans, that following last week's superb Heineken Cup quarter-final win, this match should be treated as a nothing game with only a "B" team sent up. This, of course, would be massively disrespectful not only to the competition but also to the travelling Munster fans and indeed the wider Munster squad who've worked so hard to put Munster into their most competitive position for years at this stage of the league season. To his credit then Declan Kidney has named a very strong side.

There are two changes to the pack. After shipping a facial injury last week, David Wallace is not risked, so Anthony Foley starts at eight with Denis Leamy moving to open-side. Leamy started his Munster career there but hasn't played there in quite a while so it'll be interesting to see how he gets on at the breakdown. Then again Alan Quinlan has plenty of experience as a seven so he won't be short of help and may even end up starting there. Captain Paul O'Connell drops to the bench so Mick O'Driscoll returns to the second row where he performed so capably in O'Connell's absence earlier in the season.

With Marcus Horan still not right after his back injury, Tony Buckley is perhaps surprisingly retained at loosehead prop where he struggled badly last week at times. Buckley is no doubt a fine player, but he looks like a pure tight-head and many Munster fans will wonder whether Federico Pucciariello mightn't have been the wiser option. Then again, don't be entirely surprised if Pucciariello starts tomorrow in a late change.

In the backs the only change is the return of Peter Stringer in place of Tomas O'Leary. Stringer was controversially omitted last week and O'Leary justified the selection with a fine performance, so Stringer will be looking to make a major case for his recall to the semi-final team against Saracens.

For Leinster Girvan Dempsey's return from fitness at full-back see's Rob Kearney switch to the left wing. In turn, Luke Fitzgerald switches from the left wing to make his first start in the centre for Leinster in a competitive game. Many fans have picked outside centre as potentially Fitzgerald's best position for a while now but Chieka has resisted the temptation to start him there. Making his debut in the position against a player of Rua Tipoki's class is a big ask, but Luke has matured this season and he'll relish the clash of the "hot-steppers"!

In the pack the only change is, as usual, in the backrow. The rotation policy means Keith Gleeson starts at openside and Shane Jennings switches back to number six in place of Stephen Keogh. Keogh will no doubt be fuming at missing out on another chance to take on his old team-mates. If and when he makes an appearance from the bench, look out for the steam emitting from his ears as he runs onto the pitch.

After Leinster's magnificent win in Musgrave park last November, Munster will be very much out for revenge. In a sign of the changing times, Leinster will have no fear of the wet weather forecast, while Munster will lament the limitations this could put on their exciting, on-form backline. As in November, this will come down to a pitch battle between the packs. The Munster pack's pride took a blow back then and they'll be well up for it, but the Leinster pack is taking no prisoners these days and they'll won't shy away from the physical challenge.

Hopefully home advantage will swing it Leinster's way.

Team Lineups

Leinster Rugby
Munster Rugby
Teams Girvan Dempsey 15 Denis Hurley
Shane Horgan 14 Doug Howlett
Luke Fitzgerald 13 Lifeimi Mafi
Felipe Contepomi 12 Rua Tipoki
Rob Kearney 11 Ian Dowling
Jonathan Sexton 10 Ronan O'Gara (C)
Chris Whitaker 9 Peter Stringer

Ollie Le Roux 1 Tony Buckley
Bernard Jackman 2 Jerry Flannery
Stan Wright 3 John Hayes
Leo Cullen (C) 4 Donncha O'Callaghan
Malcolm O'Kelly 5 Mick O'Driscoll
Shane Jennings 6 Alan Quinlan
Keith Gleeson 7 Denis Leamy
Jamie Heaslip 8 Anthony Foley

Replacements Seven from
Brian Blaney
Cian Healy
Stephen Knoop
Trevor Hogan
Stephen Keogh
Chris Keane
Eoin O'Malley
Michael Berne
Gary Brown
16 Federico Pucciariello
17 Frank Sheahan
18 Paul O'Connell
19 Niall Ronan
20 Tomas O'Leary
21 Paul Warwick
22 Kieran Lewis

Not considered
due to injury
Gordon D'Arcy
Brian O'Driscoll

Officials Referee: Chris White (RFU)
Sub Referee: Colin Stanley (IRFU)
Touch Judge: David Wilkinson (IRFU)
4th Official: Peter Dennehy (ARLB)
5th Official: Tom Tuohy (ARLB)
TMO: Marshall Kilgore (IRFU)

by Jim O'Connor, © 2008-04-11