Rugby games don’t get much bigger than Munster versus Leinster and this Saturday tea-time brings with it a treat for all sporting fans as the Guinness PRO14 interprovincial derbies continue.
What’s at Stake?
Leinster’s visit to Thomond Park to face Munster has been sold out for some time now and it looks set to be an all-out battle (live on eir sport 1, Premier Sports 2).
There is so much to play for in this game with Leinster 16 points clear at the top of Conference B while Munster are focused on reeling in Glasgow Warriors in Conference A.
With so many Irish internationals across both teams, this also represents an opportunity for those players to reinforce their worth to the national team ahead of the Guinness Six Nations.
Team news (Munster): There are 12 changes to the side beaten by Ulster in Belfast last week as CJ Stander captains the side.
Jean Kleyn keeps his place to make his 50th appearance for the province and Mike Haley continues at full-back, with wingers Andrew Conway and Keith Earls completing the back three.
Rory Scannell and Dan Goggin form the midfield partnership with Conor Murray and Joey Carbery in the half-backs.
Dave Kilcoyne, Niall Scannell and John Ryan start in the front row as Kleyn is joined by Tadhg Beirne in the engine room.
Team news (Leinster): Jordan Larmour comes in at full-back and with James Lowe coming in on the left wing, Dave Kearney moves across to the right wing from last week.
Rory O’Loughlin is again selected in midfield but shifts inside with Garry Ringrose coming in at 13.
There is a new pair in the half-backs with Luke McGrath partnering captain Johnny Sexton.
It’s an historic evening for Clontarf man Cian Healy as the 31-year-old loosehead prop runs out for his 200th cap for Leinster.
Key battle: Joey Carbery v Johnny Sexton
With two teams packed full of international stars there will be fascinating match-ups all over the pitch on Saturday but none more so than at fly-half where Carbery takes on Sexton.
Carbery of course came through the Leinster ranks but with Sexton and Ross Byrne already competing for the No.10 shirt, a transfer to Munster played out this summer.
Sexton, arguably the finest fly-half on the planet at present, will come up against his younger rival who has exceptional footwork, acceleration and a major point to prove.
Key stat: Munster have lost their last two matches, both away from home, at Castres and at Ulster, but have not lost three in succession since 2015.
Did you know: The Munstermen are unbeaten at home in their last 15 matches since Leinster beat them at Thomond Park on St Stephen’s Day 2017.
Munster: 15. Mike Haley; 14. Andrew Conway, 13. Dan Goggin, 12. Rory Scannell, 11. Keith Earls; 10. Joey Carbery, 9. Conor Murray; 1. Dave Kilcoyne, 2. Niall Scannell, 3. John Ryan; 4. Jean Kleyn, 5. Tadhg Beirne; 6. Fineen Wycherley, 7. Chris Cloete, 8. CJ Stander
Replacements: 16. Kevin O’Byrne, 17. Jeremy Loughman, 18. Stephen Archer, 19. Billy Holland, 20. Arno Botha, 21. Alby Mathewson, 22. Tyler Bleyendaal, 23. Darren Sweetnam.
Leinster: 15. Jordan Larmour, 14. Dave Kearney, 13. Garry Ringrose, 12. Rory O’Loughlin, 11. James Lowe, 10. Johnny Sexton, 9. Luke McGrath, 1. Cian Healy, 2. James Tracy, 3. Tadhg Furlong, 4. Scott Fardy, 5. James Ryan, 6. Rhys Ruddock, 7. Josh van der Flier, 8. Jack Conan
Replacements: 16. Bryan Byrne, 17. Peter Dooley, 18. Michael Bent, 19. Ross Molony, 20. Max Deegan, 21. Hugh O’Sullivan, 22. Ciaran Frawley, 23. Noel Reid
TV: Live on eir Sport 1 & Premier Sports 2
Referee: Frank Murphy
Assistant referees: Sean Gallagher & Johnny Erskine
TMO: Simon McDowell
A rampant Munster side handed defending Guinness PRO14 champions Leinster only their second defeat of the season as they claimed a dramatic 26-17 interprovincial derby win.
Tries from Chris Cloete and Keith Earls, along with 14 points from Joey Carbery and a conversion from Tyler Bleyendaal, saw the hosts maintain their unbeaten home record in 2018.
Leinster, who were reduced to 14 men after James Lowe saw red on the half-hour mark, closed the deficit with second-half tries from James Tracy and Max Deegan.
But it was not enough to rescue the result as the visitors, who also had Cian Healy and Tadhg Furlong sib-binned in the first 30 minutes, lost their seven-game unbeaten streak.
The often-fractious encounter started with Leinster on the front foot as they stretched the Munster defence in the early stages, but it was the hosts who claimed the opening score.
Superb work from Cloete allowed the flanker to touch down on the back of a maul just moments after receiving a heavy tackle from Scott Fardy, with Carbery adding the extras.
Tries from Chris Cloete and Keith Earls along with 14 points from the boot of Joey Carbery and a Tyler Bleyendaal conversion guides Munster to tonight's Guinness PRO14 victory at Thomond Park. #MUNvLEI #SUAF 🔴 pic.twitter.com/P0aQEJEbfy
— Munster Rugby (@Munsterrugby) December 29, 2018
Leinster suffered another blow a minute later when Healy was sent to the sin bin on his 200th appearance for the club after a clash with Conor Murray.
A Johnny Sexton penalty got Leinster on the board for the first time but just as Healy returned to the field, Furlong was shown yellow for a big hit on try scorer Cloete.
It went from bad to worse for the visitors just two minutes later when Lowe was given a straight red card after colliding with Andrew Conway, leaving Leinster two-men short.
Munster capitalised with another Carbery penalty to go into the break 13-3 ahead, before the Irish international added another three points after a period of relentless Munster pressure.
But just as the hosts appeared to be leaving their rivals behind, Leinster struck back through Tracy who burrowed over the line before Sexton added the extras.
Carbery was on target again just after the hour to stretch Munster’s lead once more, before Earls produced a timely interception and sprinted over 80 metres for his side’s second try.
Replacement Bleyendaal’s conversion appeared to put the result beyond doubt, but Deegan grabbed a late try to cut the deficit in the closing minutes.
It proved to be nothing more than a consolation, though, as Munster closed out the game to end their four-match losing streak against their provincial rivals and move up to second in Conference A.