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Munster Rugby vs Leinster Rugby
Pro14 Conference B, Round 12
Thomond Park, Limerick

Saturday, 29th December 2018, 17:15

TV: Live on Eir Sports

Well that was fun!

In truth Connacht deserved to win that match but it was sweet to snatch it at the death from them in the manner Leinster did. Leinster played poorly for much of the game but when all looked lost they showed the mark of champions again to find a way to win. It was a brilliantly entertaining derby match, in stark contrast to the rather dour encounter between Munster and Ulster the night before. Admittedly the weather was worse but it was a horrible, error ridden affair as a far stronger Ulster team eventually stumbled their way to a win over an under-strength Munster side.

To their credit, Munster earned a losing bonus point from the match but it means Munster have now lost two games on the bounce after their defeat to Castres away in the Heineken Cup the week before. So they will be revved up by the visit of Leinster who will be looking to win in Thomond Park for the third time in their last four visits. After much complaining in recent seasons about the relative strength of the teams, perhaps there was some pressure from the league or from the IRFU so both teams have named close enough to their strongest teams.

Munster have made 12 changes to the side beaten by Ulster in Belfast last week as CJ Stander returns to captain the side in the absence of Peter O'Mahony. Fineen Wycherley, who normally plays at lock, keeps his place in the back row alongside Chris Cloete and Stander. Jean Kleyn makes his 50th appearance for the province alongside Tadhg Beirne in the engine room. Dave Kilcoyne, Niall Scannell and John Ryan start in the front row.

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. Joey took a bit of flak for his performance against Castres so he would love nothing better than to atone against his old team-mates.

For Leinster it's an historic evening for Cian Healy as the 31-year-old loosehead prop earns his 200th cap for Leinster. Healy has been around so long it's remarkable to think he's only 31. He's had some really bad struggles with injury in his time so it's been fantastic to see him return to the world-class loosehead he is in recent seasons.

There's eleven changes to the team in total with Jordan Larmour coming in at full back and with James Lowe coming in on the left wing, Dave Kearney moves across to the right. Rory O'Loughlin is again selected in midfield for the third game running but shifts back inside with Garry Ringrose coming in at 13. There is a new pairing in the half backs with Luke McGrath partnering captain Johnny Sexton.

Joining Healy in the front row will be fellow Ireland internationals James Tracy and Tadhg Furlong. In the second row James Ryan is joined by Australian international Scott Fardy who retains his spot as does blindside Rhys Ruddock with Josh van der Flier and Jack Conan coming in to complete the backrow.

These are certainly the two strongest teams to be named for this fixture for some years and it should be a fine game if the rain isn't too bad. Munster's bench actually looks a tad stronger for once though and that could swing a tight one to their advantage but hopefully Leinster can keep their winning streak going.

Team Lineups

Munster Rugby

Leinster Rugby
Teams Mike Haley 15 Jordan Larmour
Andrew Conway 14 Dave Kearney
Dan Goggin 13 Garry Ringrose
Rory Scannell 12 Rory O'Loughlin
Keith Earls 11 James Lowe
Joey Carbery 10 Johnny Sexton (C)
Conor Murray 9 Luke McGrath

Dave Kilcoyne 1 Cian Healy
Niall Scannell 2 James Tracy
John Ryan 3 Tadhg Furlong
Jean Kleyn 4 Scott Fardy
Tadhg Beirne 5 James Ryan
Fineen Wycherley 6 Rhys Ruddock
Chris Cloete 7 Josh van der Flier
CJ Stander (C) 8 Jack Conan

Replacements Kevin O'Byrne 16 Bryan Byrne
Jeremy Loughman 17 Peter Dooley
Stephen Archer 18 Michael Bent
Billy Holland 19 Ross Molony
Arno Botha 20
Max Deegan
Alby Mathewson 21 Hugh O'Sullivan
Tyler Bleyendaal 22 Ciaran Frawley
Darren Sweetnam 23 Noel Reid

Not Considered
due to Injury
Chris Farrell,
James Hart,
Rhys Marshall,
Brian Scott,
Neil Cronin,
Jack O'Donoghue,
James Cronin

Will Connors,
Barry Daly,
Fergus McFadden,
Joe Tomane,
Sean O'Brien,
Robbie Henshaw,
Nick McCarthy,
Jack McGrath,
Hugo Keenan
Officials Referee: Frank Murphy (IRFU),
Assistant Referees: Sean Gallagher (IRFU), Johnny Erskine (IRFU),
TMO: Simon McDowell (IRFU)

by Jim O'Connor, © 2018-12-28