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Leinster legend predicts tight tussle

Guinness PRO12 Editor

1 Apr 2011

Former Leinster star Eric Miller believes his old side can beat bitter rivals Munster this weekend but that doesn’t mean he thinks they will.

Leinster travel to Thomond Park on Saturday night for one of the most-talked about games of the Magners League season and one that is set to have a major impact on the race for the Play-Offs.

Munster currently head the standings by an impressive 12 points but it is Leinster who have the better record in recent meetings between the two.

The Dubliners have won the last six encounters in all competitions, a run which includes semi-final triumphs in both the Magners League and Heineken Cup.

That record also features a 16-15 win in the corresponding in Limerick last term, meaning Leinster will travel without trepidation despite the magnitude of the task ahead of them.

Miller, who was a Leinster player between 1995 and 1996 and again between 2000 and 2006, says Munster will be desperate to end their barren derby run and that will make them a particularly tough opponent tomorrow night.

“The sub-plots are intriguing, as always for these games. This time, the incentive will be very much with the home side,” wrote Miller in his column for the Herald.

“Not only have Munster lost four or five games on the trot to their arch-rivals, they will play at home with a large support advantage and, as they are now out of the Heineken Cup, all their focus will be on the league campaign.

“From a psychological standpoint it would be their worst nightmare to endure another defeat at the hands of Leinster.

“Regardless of the comfortable position they hold at the top of the Magners table, one suspects it will make no difference to their approach tomorrow.”

Miller believes there will be little between the two sides in Limerick and he is certain that Leinster have enough in their armory to make it a magnificent seven over their provincial enemies.

If Leinster can gain parity up front, Miller knows they have plenty of talent in their backline to do some real damage.

But the man who won close to 50 caps for Ireland and was a Test Lion in 1997 admits that the top few inches could be the deciding factor on the day and the fact that Leinster face a Heineken rather than Amlin quarter-final the following weekend may make the diffeence.

“I expect Munster to bring a very high level of intensity and physicality – these are facets of the game that have been synonymous with their approach, especially at home,” added Miller.

“They will need all of that and more, because on paper it’s hard to see them out-gunning Leinster. If they are to outplay the Blues, winning the physical battle would be a pre-requisite.

“Leinster know they can outplay Munster from a rugby standpoint, so the big question for (Brian) O’Driscoll’s men will be how much they will want it on the day.

“These matches always leave players out on their feet but you can bet that both sets of players will put it all on the line once again. The Leinster players know deep down how much they are willing to risk mind and body so close to a quarter-final, in the realisation that they will be required to back it up once again next week.

“It’s certainly a big ask at this stage of the season. Mental freshness is key, and any ideas of them being able to sneak a win playing at 90 per cent simply will not cut it on a day where one expects to see red jerseys tearing into them.”