Leinster head coach Leo Cullen says he is relishing Saturday’s interprovincial showdown with Munster.
Cullen’s men have won six of their last seven meetings at the Aviva Stadium and, should that trend continue, would leapfrog Munster to the top of the Guinness Pro12 table.
Cullen said: “They are such great occasions.
“The players go at it full on and the crowd feed off that and the players feed off the energy that the crowd give as well. They are great days.
“There’ll be 30 players going hard at it.”
Rob Kearney returns from a month long injury lay off as one of 11 changes to the Leinster side that beat Cardiff Blues last week.
Centre Gary Ringrose is also back and will be partnered by Robbie Henshaw who makes his full debut.
Luke McGrath is back in the fold with Jonny Sexton outside him, while Cian Healy, Sean Cronin and Tadhg Furlong form an all-Irish front row.
Devin Toner will partner former Munster favourite Ian Nagle in the boiler room, while in the back row Rhys Ruddock will play as blindside flanker and Jordi Murphy features on the openside.
Jamie Heaslip is set to make his 221st appearance for Leinster, equalling Cullen’s record.
Munster will be eager to build on their impressive start to the season having only lost one of their last seven Guinness Pro12 fixtures.
However, they will be looking for a dramatic improvement from their rotten record against teams from Irish provinces.
The Red Army have won one of their last five encounters; that victory coming over Ulster in January.
And full-back Simon Zebo is determined to walk away with the bragging rights.
Zebo said: “For the players it means so much and we know how much it means to the fans.
“I think that it’s just the rivalry and tradition that both teams share.”
Munster have made five changes for this weekend’s contest with club captain Peter O’Mahony making a return to the starting line-up for the first time in almost a year.
Niall Scannell and John Ryan will be returning to the front row.
At the back, Rory Scannell returns after a month out through a neck injury while Keith Earls will line up in the centre for the first time this season.
Ronan O’Mahony will start on the left wing.
Overall Guinness PRO12 head to head record:
Played 29, Leinster won 17, Munster won 12.
At Aviva Stadium, 2.05pm. Live on Sky Sports and TG4
Referee: David Wilkinson (IRFU, 45th competition game)
Assistant Referees: Stuart Gaffikin, Richard Kerr (both IRFU)
Citing Commissioner: Eddie Walsh (IRFU)
TMO: Simon McDowell (IRFU)
Isa Nacewa grabbed a double as Leinster leapfrogged Munster in the Guinness PRO12 table with a 25-14 victory over their fierce rivals at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin.
Leo Cullen’s men have now won seven of their last eight meetings at the Aviva while Munster’s poor recent record against fellow Irish provinces continues.
Skipper Peter O’Mahony crossed for the visitors in the first half and they had plenty of opportunities but Leinster were too clinical with Nacewa their tormentor in chief.
The winger finished with a try in each half while scrum-half Jamison Gibson-Park also crossed in the second period for the boys in blue.
Munster – who have started this season in impressive fashion – have now only won one of their last six clashes against Irish opposition but did get a late consolation through Jaco Taute.
It was the home side who hit the front from the outset, two Jonathan Sexton penalties in the first ten minutes opening up a 6-0 lead.
Either side of those kicks Leinster came agonisingly close to the first try of the game when Gary Ringrose and Sexton combined to release Nacewa down the left but the winger was collared by a superb try-saving tackle by Simon Zebo.
Despite the scoreline, the majority of the rugby in the first quarter was actually played by Munster – muscular carries through the middle creating inroads.
And eventually their pressure told as skipper O’Mahony – in his first start for his province since May of last year – went over at the back of a rolling maul.
Tyler Bleyendaal added the extras to put the Red Army in front at 7-6 but Leinster nearly responded immediately.
Sexton’s clever kick in behind released Ringrose who seemed certain to score but the young centre knocked on with the try line at his mercy.
That miss did not prove too costly however as Leinster did get their try before the break, Nacewa making up for his earlier wasted chance to go over in the left corner after quick hands from Luke McGrath and Sexton had released him.
The fly-half missed with the extras however, so the home side went into the break at the Aviva Stadium leading 11-7.
Munster made early changes in the second half to their pack – skipper O’Mahony withdrawn for Jack O’Donoghue.
But it was another replacement in James Cronin who nearly got their second try – the prop only denied by the TMO for a double movement as the Munster pack turned the screw.
But having spent most of the first ten minutes trapped in their own half, Leinster turned the tide and struck with real ruthlessness.
Ringrose made the initial incision down the right and when the ball was spread left Nacewa again had a simple run in off a Rob Kearney pass.
This time Sexton did add the extras and at 18-7 in front before the hour mark Leinster looked home and hosed.
And not long afterwards they had a third try, a clever kick in behind from debutant Robbie Henshaw sparking chaos in the Munster back line. Ronan O’Mahony and Bleyendaal both failed to ground the ball and replacement scrum-half Gibson-Park was on hand to dot down.
Nacewa slotted the extras for Leinster as Sexton was withdrawn and while Zebo fed Taute late on for a consolation the damage was done as Leinster went second in the table, only behind Ulster on points difference.
07 Oct 2016
04 Oct 2016