Both Leinster and Munster will enter this crunch clash with a point to prove and hoping to take the lead in their respective Conferences of the Guinness PRO14.
The two sides each enter the first inter-pro of the season with four wins out of five and they will be looking to add to their respective totals in the clash at the Aviva Stadium on Saturday afternoon at 2pm local time.
What’s at stake? Munster have just one win from their last ten visits to the Aviva Stadium, and while that may not bode well for the province, they will surely be desperate to end the Dublin hoodoo on Saturday.
Both sides are within touching distance of first place in their respective conferences, both on 19 points, and neither will be happy with anything other than a win as they look to build momentum into Europe.
Team news (Leinster): British and Irish Lion Robbie Henshaw makes his first appearance of the season after recovering from the pectoral injury he sustained on Lions duty.
Luke McGrath appears alongside captain Jonathan Sexton in the half-backs, and Devin Toner and Scott Fardy continue their partnership in the second row while Sean O’Brien misses out with a tight calf.
Team news (Munster): Director of rugby Rassie Erasmus has opted to keep faith in the forwards who excelled against Cardiff Blues last weekend, making no changes for the trip to Dublin.
Ireland international Keith Earls makes his first appearance of the season on the left wing, and JJ Hanrahan also makes his first start at full-back while Tyler Bleyendaal is at inside centre.
Talking points: Sexton may be set to become Leinster’s top points scorer against Munster this weekend in a game that features four fly-halves.
Sexton scored four points against Edinburgh last weekend and needs another five to claim the club record .
Meanwhile Munster have named three fly-halves in their experimental lineup and it will be interesting to see how Ian Keatley – who wears No.10 – dovetails with Bleyendaal and Hanrahan.
Key Battle: Jack Conan v CJ Stander
In the absence of the injured Jamie Heaslip, Jack Conan has grown in stature and made the Leinster No 8 jersey his own.
This weekend however, he will have his work cut out for him against Munster’s CJ Stander as the latter makes his 100th club appearance.
The Ireland internatonional, and now a Test British & Irish Lion, has returned from his summer break and looks to be back to his energetic best already. Expect fireworks on Saturday.
Key Stat: The Leinstermen have won on their last four visits to Aviva Stadium in all tournaments, since Toulon beat them there in the European Champions Cup in December 2015.
Did you know? Munster’s only win at the Aviva Stadium in their last ten attempts was a 34-23 victory in October 2014. You have to go back to September 2008 to find their last win there before that.
Leinster: J Carbery, A Byrne, R O’Loughlin, R Henshaw, B Daly, J Sexton, L McGrath, J McGrath, J Tracy, T Furlong, D Toner, S Fardy, R Ruddock, J van der Flier, J Conan.
Replacements: S Cronin, C Healy, M Bent, R Molony, J Murphy, J Gibson-Park, R Byrne, F McFadden
Munster: JJ Hanrahan, A Conway, C Farrell, T Bleyendaal, K Earls; I Keatley, C Murray, D Kilcoyne, N Scannell, J Ryan; R Copeland, B Holland, P O’Mahony, T O’Donnell, CJ Stander.
Replacements: R Marshall, L O’Connor, S Archer, M Flanagan, J O’Donoghue, D Williams, R Scannell, A Wootton.
TV: Sky Sports/TG4, (KO 2pm)
Match officials – Referee: Ben Whitehouse (WRU), AR1: Craig Evans (WRU), AR2: Wayne Davies (WRU) TMO: Jon Mason (WRU)
Guinness PRO14 Final 2018 Ticket Information: Fans can save up to 20% on selected tickets, and prices start at just €30 for adults and €5 for children, and be booked via www.ticketmaster.ie
Rory O’Loughlin’s first-half double was enough for Leinster as they registered a comfortable win over Munster to claim four points in Conference B.
The men in blue looked composed throughout and had the first score of the afternoon with O’Loughlin pirouetting through tackles to go in under the posts.
Ian Keatley got the Munstermen back in it with his breakaway try but O’Loughlin crossed again to restore the lead before half-time.
Keith Earls responded after the break with another score against the run of play, and despite his second try right at the death Leinster held on for a hard-fought victory.
Munster thought they’d opened the scoring after just 13 minutes but a long pass wide to Keith Earls was adjudged to have gone forward.
There was no doubt about O’Loughlin’s effort in the 17th minute as the outside centre danced and spun his way through the 22 to touchdown under the posts.
Munster’s Niall Scannell saw yellow for a deliberate knock-on but his teammates levelled things up in the sin-bin period with Keatley seizing on a loose pass to race away to the line.
Leinster though were determined to dictate the pace of the game and attacked relentlessly, with two crossfield bombs from Sexton gaining crucial ground.
Gaps appeared and O’Loughlin got his second on 35 minutes, with a trademark Sexton loop finding Joey Carbery who passed on to give the centre an easy run in.
The Dublin-based province led 14-7 at the break and immediately set about extending that lead in the second-half, with Barry Daly and Sexton both making inroads down the left.
The Aviva Stadium crowd were treated to a historic moment soon after, with Sexton adding a penalty and in the process becoming Leinster’s all-time leading points scorer, with rapturous applause ringing out around the ground.
But the joy was short-lived as a loose lineout gave Tommy O’Donnell the opportunity to streak 50 metres up the pitch and offload to Earls, who touched down in the corner despite Adam Byrne’s impressive covering tackle.
Ireland fly-half Sexton was in typically metronomic form though and added two further penalties to surge his team into a 23-12 lead.
With ten minutes left to play Jamison Gibson-Park prodded the ball into the corner and with Barry Daly steaming in JJ Hanrahan got back in the nick of time to carry the ball into touch.
Munster staged one last attempt to steal the win and Earls went over in the corner with two minutes left to play, but following the missed conversion Rassie Erasmus’ men were content with a losing bonus-point.
06 Oct 2017