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Munster 'A' vs Leinster 'A'
British & Irish Cup Semi-final,
Dooradoyle, Limerick,
Friday, 26th April 2013, 19:30

If Leinster 'A' are going to win their first ever British and Irish Cup this season, they're going to have to do it the hard way. After winning their quarter-final somewhat unexpectedly away to Bristol, they now have to travel to face the defending champions Munster in the semi-final. And even if they get through that, they'll most likely have to travel to play Newcastle, who have only lost once this season.

But first up are Munster and they will be a tough enough proposition on their own. Leinster will be looking for revenge for last season when they lost a home semi-final at the RDS in front of a big crowd. That game, which took place on Good Friday last year, was a real ding-dong battle that swung one way and another before Munster won 36-29 after extra-time. This season, Leinster 'A' have played Munster 'A' twice and though both games were close affairs, Munster won both of the games.

With both team's senior sides in European action on Saturday, this game has been running under the radar somewhat but it will still be a fierce battle for the players involved. Munster's coach Ian Costello has named a strong side with plenty of senior experience, especially in the pack. Former Leinster flanker Niall Ronan makes up a dangerous back row with former Clontarf man Barry O'Mahony and South African CJ Stander. Dave Foley and Ian Nagle form a quality second row and Connacht bound hooker Sean Henry captains the team from the front row alongside props James Cronin and Alan Cotter.

In the backs, Ronan O'Mahony is named on the left wing after scoring a try on his senior debut against the Dragons last weekend. Corey Hircock is on the other wing with Sean Scanlon at full back. Danny Barnes and Ivan Dineen have plenty of first team experience in the centres and JJ Hanrahan and Duncan Williams are the half-backs. After a magnificent Junior World Cup at the end of last season, Hanrahan is probably a little frustrated that he hasn't featured a little more for the seniors this term but he looks a quality player with a big future. Their long-serving prop Marcus Horan, who's retiring at the end of the season, is the biggest name on the bench.

Leinster's lengthy injury list means coach Girvan Dempsey's resources are stretched once again, especially in the backs but he's still named a team with some exciting talent. Leinster fans will be delighted to see that Adam Byrne is back. 19-year-old Byrne came from nowhere to make a big impact in the A team just before Christmas which led to him getting capped against Connacht, becoming the senior team's youngest ever player. Unfortunately he broke his leg shortly after that but he's determined to get back to try to get into the Ireland Under-20 squad for the Junior World Cup.  Blessed with pace, power and natural athleticism, he's certainly an exciting prospect for the future.

He's named in the centre alongside Noel Reid, which means Cathal Marsh is trusted with the number 10 jersey. Marsh was impressive for Leinster in the win over Bristol in the last round and he forms a half-back partnership with his old St. Michaels team-mate Luke McGrath. The experienced Fionn Carr is named at full back with Andrew Boyle and Sam Coghlan-Murray on the wings.

In the front five there's experience with Aaron Dundon, Michael Bent and Tom Denton along with youth in Jack O'Connell and Mark Flanagan. In the back row Ben Marshall and Leo Auva'a will bring plenty of physicality to the mix and Conor Gilsenan captains the team from openside. With resources stretched, Suttonians scrum-half Adam Griggs, Lansdowne's Tom Daly and Clontarf's Mick McGrath are named as the backs replacements on the bench. When the senior team is announced tomorrow however, some other players could be drafted in so this line-up is likely to change.

Munster have to be big favourites for this game and have generally had the edge at this level over Leinster for the past few seasons. Generally they tend to field stronger, more experienced packs and this is where they've won most of the previous games, but arguably they'd have the edge in the backs this time as well. Leinster are up against it, but they might enjoy going in at under-dogs as they were when they took on Bristol in the quarter-finals. With a clear evening forecast, Leinster may well just go for it with a high tempo game.

It may not be enough however.

Team Lineups

Munster 'A'

Leinster 'A'
Teams Sean Scanlon 15 Fionn Carr
Corey Hircock 14 Andrew Boyle
Danny Barnes 13 Adam Byrne
Ivan Dineen12 Noel Reid
Ronan O'Mahony 11 Sam Coghlan-Murray
JJ Hanrahan 10 Cathal Marsh
Duncan Williams 9 Luke McGrath

James Cronin 1 Jack O'Connell
Sean Henry(C) 2 Aaron Dundon
Alan Cotter 3 Michael Bent
Dave Foley 4 Tom Denton
Ian Nagle 5 Mark Flanagan
Niall Ronan 6 Ben Marshall
Barry O'Mahony 7 Conor Gilsenan (C)
CJ Stander 8 Leo Auva'a

Replacements Duncan Casey 16 James Tracy
Marcus Horan 17 Martin Moore
Brian Hayes 18 Tadhg Beirne
Sean Dougall 19 Daniel Leavy
Johnny Holland 20 Adam Griggs
Scott Deasy 21 Tom Daly
Cian Bohane 22 Mick McGrath

by Jim O'Connor, © 2013-04-26

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