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Match Page 2017-18 - Scoreboard WP ID: 132

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Preview: Leinster v Munster

Paul Eddison 18 May 2018

Leinster and Munster will face off in an all-Irish Guinness PRO14 semi-final in a bid to reach next week’s final at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin.

Fresh from their victory in the European Champions Cup, Leinster will look to complete the domestic and European double but in their way is a Munster side who have had a week off to recover from their hard-fought win over Edinburgh.

What’s at stake? On each of the three previous occasions that Leinster have won the Champions Cup, they have been unable to back that up with the domestic title. This weekend they can take a big step towards achieving that for the first time at the RDS Arena.

Munster were pushed all the way by Edinburgh in their semi-final qualifier, but arrive full of confidence after a strong end to the season as they look to reach a second successive final.

Team news (Leinster): The challenge of playing successive big matches in Europe and then the Guinness PRO14 has led to Leo Cullen making four changes to his team. Due to tightness in his calf, Johnny Sexton misses out, with Ross Byrne taking his place in a reshaped backline. Elsewhere Joey Carbery comes in for Rob Kearney at full-back while Isa Nacewa shifts to the centres in place of Robbie Henshaw, with James Lowe starting on the wing.

In the pack there are two changes to the back row, with Rhys Ruddock starting at blindside flanker in place of Scott Fardy, who is on the bench, while Jack Conan gets the nod at No.8 as Jordi Murphy shifts to openside. The other change sees Jack McGrath come in at loosehead prop as Cian Healy drops to the bench.

Team news (Munster): Munster have made just one change to the team that saw off Edinburgh as John Ryan comes in at tighthead prop. He replaces Stephen Archer, while JJ Hanrahan continues in the No.10 jersey.

Talking points

Munster coach Johann van Graan is confident Munster will not lack for belief when they come up against the four-time European champions.

He said: “This is a club that believes in themselves.

“We cannot control the opposition. In this case it is Leinster and while we give them all the credit that is due, the players believe it themselves.

“I think that’s one of the main words that we used in our previews, ‘intelligent’.

“They’re a team that don’t seem to focus too much on emotion and that’s a sign of a really good team.”

Key battle – Joey Carbery v Simon Zebo

Arguably the most exciting player on both sides, the head-to-head of the full-backs will be one to watch. Simon Zebo could be playing his final game for Munster, where he is the all-time record try-scorer. And he goes up against Joey Carbery, capable of playing both fly-half and full-back. In the No.15 jersey his quick feet and gamebreaking ability will come to the fore if Munster give him an inch of space. Between them there should be plenty of fireworks.

Key fact: Leinster have only ever lost one Guinness PRO14 semi-final, that came last year at home to the Scarlets. That is also the only time that a home team has ever lost a semi-final so Leinster will be keen to avoid a repeat.

Did you know? Munster’s only previous victory over Leinster at the RDS Arena came ten years ago in 2008 when they won 18-0.

Leinster: Joey Carbery; Jordan Larmour, Garry Ringrose, Isa Nacewa (capt), James Lowe; Ross Byrne, Luke McGrath; Jack McGrath, Sean Cronin, Tadhg Furlong; Devin Toner, James Ryan; Rhys Ruddock, Jordi Murphy, Jack Conan.
Replacements: James Tracey, Cian Healy, Andrew Porter, Scott Fardy, Max Deegan, Nick McCarthy, Rory O’Loughlin, Barry Daly.

Munster: Simon Zebo; Andrew Conway, Sammy Arnold, Rory Scannell, Keith Earls; JJ Hanrahan, Conor Murray; James Cronin, Rhys Marshall, John Ryan; Jean Kleyn, Billy Holland; Peter O’Mahony (capt), Jack O’Donoghue, CJ Stander.
Replacements: Niall Scannell, Dave Kilcoyne, Ciaran Parker, Gerbrandt Grobler, Robin Copeland, Duncan Williams, Ian Keatley, Darren Sweetnam.

Referee: Stuart Berry (SARU, 13th Championship appearance)
AR1: Ben Whitehouse (WRU). AR2: Craig Evans (WRU).
TMO: Neil Paterson (SRU).

Sky Sports Action (Ch 407): 15:00
TG4: 14:50

Guinness PRO14 Final 2018 Ticket Information: Prices start at just €35 at www.ticketmaster.ie with tickets available to suit every experience.
To book hospitality visit:
 https://www.pro14rugby.org/hospitality
For Travel packages visit: https://www.pro14rugby.org/travel-packages
For Fanzone & Dublin 7s visit: http://www.dublin7sfestival.ie

Historical Lineup Pre Opta (sfms data) - Preview - v2

Match Page 2017-18 - Lineups WP: 135

Match Page 2017-18 - Match Data WP: 140

Match Page 2017-18 - Timeline WP:139

Leinster dramatically hold off Munster to maintain double hopes

Luke Baker 19 May 2018

Jack Conan’s early try and a last-gasp defensive stand kept Leinster’s hopes of an historic double alive as they edged into the Guinness PRO14 final with an enthralling one-point victory over old rivals Munster.

Meeting for the 154th time in their history, the two Irish provinces know each other inside out but few of those clashes will have been as dramatic as this semi-final at a raucous RDS Arena, where Leinster eventually emerged as 16-15 victors.

The win looked in doubt when Gerbrandt Grobler’s 79th-minute try and Ian Keatley’s conversion reduced Munster’s deficit to a single point, before they found themselves deep in Leinster territory as the clock turned red, but the defence held firm and Max Deegan produced a vital turnover to seal it.

Just seven days after winning the European Rugby Champions Cup, Leo Cullen’s men were put through the wringer again as Keith Earls’ try early in the second half kept the visitors in touch.

But the boots of Ross Byrne and Joey Carbery gave them enough of a cushion to withstand Grobler’s late score and they will now have the opportunity to seal a European and domestic double for the first time in their history.

Leinster had played in eight previous semi-finals in Championship history, with their only defeat coming against reigning champions Scarlets last season, and will now have the opportunity to avenge that loss in next Saturday’s Guinness PRO14 final.

For Munster, it was a first league defeat since they visited Edinburgh on 16 March and although they came agonisingly close to winning their maiden away semi-final in the Championship at the fourth attempt, their wait for a first piece of silverware since 2011 goes on.

After grinding out a hard-fought 15-12 win over Racing 92 in Bilbao to lift the Champions Cup a week ago, Leo Cullen made six changes to his starting XV for the semi-final and two of the new faces combined in spectacular fashion for the opening try on seven minutes.

New Zealand winger James Lowe produced a scintillating step in midfield to leave Simon Zebo for dead and breach Munster’s defensive line before offloading to Conan out the back of his hand while going to ground, enabling the No.8 to dive over.

Despite the early setback in their quest for just a second-ever victory at the RDS Arena – the first being an 18-0 triumph in September 2008 – Munster settled down and narrowed the gap to 7-3 with a JJ Hanrahan penalty, although that was cancelled out by a Byrne three-pointer shortly after.

And on 23 minutes, the hosts looked set to extend their advantage with a second try, only for Sammy Arnold to come up with a brilliant covering tackle.

A set move from an attacking lineout saw Leinster spread the ball wide left, where Jordan Larmour released a charging Lowe towards the line, only for centre Arnold to get across, haul down the winger and drag him into touch metres from the line.

Hanrahan subsequently skewed a kickable penalty wide and Munster failed to narrow the 10-3 deficit before half-time, despite consistently knocking on the door in the home 22 – CJ Stander being held up over the line, the closest they came.

The visitors were also reduced to 14 men as Jean Kleyn was yellow carded for recklessly clearing out Byrne at a ruck while off his feet but Johan van der Graan’s men still reduced the gap to 10-8 early in the second half with a sumptuous try.

As the ball was spread left, Zebo – playing his last game in a Munster shirt – drew in two defenders and fired an overhand pass to release Earls, where the winger bumped off the first defender and burrowed through a second tackle to dot down in the corner for a 30th Guinness PRO14 try of his career.

A second Byrne penalty, after Keatley was caught offside from a box kick, gave Leinster a little more breathing room at 13-8 but both he and Carbery missed three pointers to extend the lead in the cross-wind as the game moved into the final quarter.

With four minutes left, Carbery appeared to seal it with a successful penalty to make the score 16-8 but Grobler touched down on the base of the post with less than two minutes left, as Keatley’s conversion brought them within a point.

Munster regained the kick-off and worked their way into Leinster territory in search of a dramatic, last-gasp score but Deegan force the turnover and a penalty as the visitors fell just short, sending the hosts to the Aviva Stadium in a week’s time.

Guinness PRO14 Final 2018 Ticket Information: Prices start at just €50 at www.ticketmaster.ie with tickets available to suit every experience.
To book hospitality visit: https://www.pro14rugby.org/hospitality
For Travel packages visit: https://www.pro14rugby.org/travel-packages
For Fanzone & Dublin 7s visithttp://www.dublin7sfestival.ie

Match Page 2017-18 - Summary WP:137

Match Page 2017-18 - Match Data WP: 140

Match Page 2017-18 - Timeline WP:139

Match Page 2017-18 - Lineups WP: 135

Match Page 2017-18 - Performance WP:138