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Inter-pro battle for place in Guinness PRO14 Final

Avatar Paul Eddison 17 May 2019

Clashes between Leinster and Munster never need an extra incentive, but on Saturday the teams square off with a place in the Guinness PRO14 final awaiting the winner.

At the RDS Arena, Leinster will look to move one step closer to retaining their title and they do so against Munster in a repeat of last year’s semi-final.

What’s at stake? Leinster come into the game off the back of a European final defeat, the first in their history as they went down to Saracens in Newcastle. They have a chance to bounce back immediately as they play host to Munster.

Johann van Graan’s team were pushed all the way but eventually got past Benetton in the quarter-final thanks to JJ Hanrahan’s late penalty. They will now look to return to the final to keep their hope of a first title since 2011 alive.

Team news (Leinster): Leinster have made four changes to the side that faced Saracens, with one further positional switch. The most notable change sees Ross Byrne start at fly-half, with Johnny Sexton dropping to the bench. Elsewhere in the backline Dave Kearney comes onto the wing which means Jordan Larmour goes to full-back. In the pack there are two changes to the back row, Rhys Ruddock and Josh van der Flier starting, the latter having recovered from an injury that has kept him out since March.

Team news (Munster): Munster have made four changes to the team that beat Benetton, with Joey Carbery fit to take his place at fly-half. He replaces Tyler Bleyendaal, while JJ Hanrahan keeps his place as fly-half cover on the bench. The other change in the backs is the return of Keith Earls on the wing in place of Darren Sweetnam. Up front there are two alterations as John Ryan is preferred to Stephen Archer at tighthead prop, while Arno Botha comes into the back row for Chris Cloete.

Talking points

Leinster second row Devin Toner said: “It was a cracking occasion last year, it was a really tough game and we’re expecting nothing less this year.

“Obviously, they’ve had two weeks to prepare for it so they’re going to be up for it, I’ve no doubt.

“It’s not going to be too hard to get up for this weekend, to be honest. Munster in a semi-final, especially in the RDS as well, we really want to put on a good game for our fans.”

Munster director of rugby Johann van Graan said: “We’re very proud of our home record and improvements we’ve made away. We didn’t put in a quality performance against Treviso.

“For us it’s a massive challenge to go to the RDS and take on Leinster. It’s our challenge to go and beat the champions in their own backyard.”

Key battle – Ross Byrne v Joey Carbery

Many would have expected this to be a battle between master and apprentice as Joey Carbery faces his former side. Johnny Sexton is only on the bench though, so it is Ross Byrne who gets the nod at ten. That provides an equally intriguing match-up between two players vying to be Ireland’s long-term option at fly-half. Byrne has shown that he can step up on the big occasion, most notably in the European quarter-final win over Ulster. For Munster, the return of Carbery is a boost after they struggled to take their chances against Benetton in the last round.

Key stat: Munster have played at the RDS Arena six times before, with their only win coming back in 2008 when they won 18-0.

Did you know? Leinster have appeared in nine Guinness PRO14 semi-finals in the last ten years, with everyone single one of them taking place at the RDS Arena.

Leinster: Jordan Larmour; Dave Kearney, Garry Ringrose, Robbie Henshaw, James Lowe; Ross Byrne, Luke McGrath; Cian Healy, Sean Cronin, Tadhg Furlong, Devin Toner, James Ryan, Rhys Ruddock (capt), Josh van der Flier, Jack Conan

Replacements: Bryan Byrne, Ed Byrne, Andrew Porter, Scott Fardy, Max Deegan, Nick McCarthy, Johnny Sexton, Rory O’Loughlin

Munster: Mike Haley; Andrew Conway, Chris Farrell, Rory Scannell, Keith Earls; Joey Carbery, Conor Murray; Dave Kilcoyne, Niall Scannell, John Ryan; Jean Kleyn, Tadhg Beirne; Peter O’Mahony (capt), CJ Stander, Arno Botha.

Replacements: Kevin O’Byrne, Liam O’Connor, Stephen Archer, Billy Holland, Jack O’Donoghue, Alby Mathewson, JJ Hanrahan, Dan Goggin.

TV: Live on Premier Sports 1, eir sport 1 & DAZN
At the RDS Arena, Dublin, 2.30pm.

Referee: Mike Adamson (SRU)
AR1: Lloyd Linton (SRU), AR2: Keith Allen (SRU)
TMO: Neil Patterson (SRU)


The Guinness PRO14 Final is one of the most entertaining games in the rugby calendar and takes place in Glasgow’s Celtic Park on May 25. Tickets start at just £25 for adults, £1 for kids. Visit www.pro14rugby.org/finaltickets

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

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Cronin and Lowe’s second-half scores secure Leinster’s final berth

Avatar cmcloughlin 18 May 2019

Sean Cronin’s try ensured Leinster will have a shot at successive Guinness PRO14 titles, as his side beat Munster 24-9 to earn a spot in the season’s showpiece game against Glasgow Warriors.

An energy-sapping semi-final at the RDS Arena went the way of the hosts thanks to a second-half score from the hooker, involving fine handling in the backline by his front-row colleagues Tadhg Furlong and Cian Healy.

Twelve points from the boot of Ross Byrne and a late James Lowe try made sure it was Leinster who will play for the trophy at Celtic Park next weekend.

Leinster fly-half Byrne, standing in for World Rugby Player of the Year Johnny Sexton, was successful with an early penalty but there was a near-instant response from Carbery for the visitors to make it 3-3.

A breathless opening quarter continued with breaks from Jordan Larmour and Lowe, which gave Leinster their first sniff of the Munster tryline.

The 2017/18 Guinness PRO14 champions pushed hard for the line, with the returning Josh van der Flier bundled out just short after good work at the lineout from hooker Cronin.

But Munster powered back, with Tadhg Beirne’s burst through the gap looking to have created an overlap.

Johann van Graan’s men looked to go wide but Leinster’s Lowe knocked on deliberately to break up the attack, with referee Mike Adamson sending him to the sinbin before Munster fly-half Carbery nudged them in front with another penalty.

Despite Munster’s man advantage it was Leinster who scored next, drawing level thanks to a Byrne penalty.

The half ended on a sour note for the hosts as second row Devin Toner left the field with a nasty-looking knee injury, as he was replaced by Scott Fardy.

Leinster went in 9-6 up after Larmour’s break led to a penalty when the Munster defenders did not roll away, with Byrne taking advantage with his third successful attempt at the posts.

The hosts kept the pace up as the second half started, Cronin’s cannon-balling break leading to scrum-half Luke McGrath’s pass hitting the retreating Niall Scannell to win another penalty – which was kicked successfully by Byrne to make it 12-6.

But the game continued to swing back and forth, this time Carbery notching a kick from in front of the post when Fardy was penalised.

Lowe had a series of half breaks just minutes later, which set up Cronin for the game’s first try.

The hosts showed the diverse skills of their pack before the hooker dived over, with props Furlong and Healy helping spread it wide for their front-row colleague to score.

Byrne stayed perfect from the tee to make it 19-9 before he was replaced by Sexton.

The match continued to sway back and forth as the visitors struggled to make the incisive break needed to salvage the match. Munster continued to run the ball from deep but Leinster’s defence managed to keep the visitors at arm’s length.

And Leinster rounded off their semi-final triumph in style with Lowe making the most of a central scrum when the ball came his way. He stepped around Munster full-back Mike Haley on the left-wing to complete their triumph with a try, as it finished 24-9.


The Guinness PRO14 Final is one of the most entertaining games in the rugby calendar and takes place in Glasgow’s Celtic Park on May 25. Tickets start at just £25 for adults, £1 for kids. Visit www.pro14rugby.org/finaltickets

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