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Leinster Rugby vs Munster Rugby
Pro Rugby Grand Final
RDS Arena, Dublin
Saturday, 27th March 2021, 17:00

TV: Live on Eir Sports/TG4

Shoehorned in the weekend between the end of the Six Nations and the resumption of the European Champions Cup, the Grand Final doesn't feel all that grand this season if truth be told.

The premature end to the league season is of course to allow space to play the Rainbow Cup with the four big South African teams coming into the fold. They've finally announced some fixtures for that today as it appeared the whole tournament could be in danger of not happening. No European teams will be travelling to South Africa though so you wonder how fair it is but we'll see.

Far from limping back from the Six Nations, the internationals will have a spring in their step after comprehensively beating England last week for the first time in five attempts. The overall campaign was no barrel of laughs though and there will still be suspicions that this was a typical one-off against England that we've seen in the past. Obviously there was a huge amount of focus on CJ Stander's last match for Ireland last week after he announced his shock retirement. He's never won a trophy for Munster and there will be a big emotional pull for Munster to win it for CJ and the long-serving Billy Holland.

Stander is named at number eight with Gavin Coombes at blindside and skipper Peter O'Mahony at openside. Tadhg Beirne had an outstanding Six Nations championship in the back and second row for Ireland and he partners Jean Kleyn in the boiler room. James Cronin, Niall Scannell and John Ryan are the front row and Leinster will be targeting Scannell's throws again after making hay there the last time.

Conor Murray is back and he partners Joey Carbery at half-back. Damian de Allende and Chris Farrell are the centres and Keith Earls, Mike Haley and Andrew Conway make up the back three. Dave Kilcoyne, Billy Holland and Craig Casey are named on the bench alongside JJ Hanrahan who is rumoured to be off to Clermont at the end of the season.

For Leinster they had a bit of a shock to the system when they blew a 19-3 lead in the last ten minutes to lose to the Ospreys last week. In fairness Leinster's resources were stretched to the limit and it will probably be a tough but valuable lesson for the very young side that finished the game.

There are lots of changes to the starting team as Luke McGrath returns from injury to skipper the team alongside Ross Byrne at half back. Rory O'Loughlin moves from the wing to outside centre where he'll partner Robbie Henshaw, who was Ireland's best player of the Six Nations. Hugo Keenan and Jordan Larmour return to the back three but Dave Kearney deservedly keeps his place on the left wing ahead of James Lowe who is on the bench.

Cian Healy, Ronan Kelleher and Andrew Porter come in to form a whole new front row. Scott Fardy moves to the second row alongside Devin Toner who will become the most capped Leinster player of all time when he takes the field. Rhys Ruddock, Josh van der Flier and Jack Conan form a whole new backrow. There is plenty more international talent on the bench in the likes of Ed Byrne, Tadhg Furlong, Ryan Baird, Jamison Gibson-Park and Johnny Sexton.

But it does leave a bit of a sour taste that the likes of Harry Byrne, Peter Dooley, Scott Penny and above all the mighty Michael Bent aren't even in the matchday squad given how much they did to get Leinster to the final while most of the internationals barely played a match in this competition this season. I know rugby is a ruthless business and the big names normally come back in for the final but given the peculiar circumstances of the season and the fact that this is normally a rest week, I don't think the squad would be weakened too much by including those four on the bench instead of their more illustrious counterparts.

So who's going to win? The sentimental favourites will be Munster to give CJ and Billy a nice send off and sure Leinster fans wouldn't be so hard-hearted as to begrudge them a trophy after all these years of fruitless toil?

To hell with that!!

We want the four in a row!!!

It will be another tight, close match and even though Leinster have won eight out of the last nine games, Munster have been getting closer and closer and they're probably due a win. But even without fans, it would still be sickening to watch Munster parade around our home patch with a trophy, so hopefully the thought of that will be motivation enough for our lads.

Leinster to win!!

Team Lineups

Leinster Rugby

Munster Rugby
Teams Hugo Keenan 15 Mike Haley
Jordan Larmour 14 Andrew Conway
Rory O'Loughlin 13 Chris Farrell
Robbie Henshaw 12 Damian de Allende
Dave Kearney 11 Keith Earls
Ross Byrne 10 Joey Carbery
Luke McGrath (C) 9 Conor Murray

Cian Healy 1 James Cronin
Ronan Kelleher 2 Niall Scannell
Andrew Porter 3 John Ryan
Devin Toner 4 Jean Kleyn
Scott Fardy
5 Tadhg Beirne
Rhys Ruddock 6 Gavin Coombes
Josh van der Flier 7 Peter O'Mahony (C)
Jack Conan 8 CJ Stander

Replacements James Tracy 16 Kevin O'Byrne
Ed Byrne 17 Dave Kilcoyne
Tadhg Furlong 18 Stephen Archer
Ross Molony 19 Billy Holland
Ryan Baird20 Jack O'Donoghue
Jamison Gibson-Park 21 Craig Casey
Johnny Sexton 22 JJ Hanrahan
James Lowe 23 Rory Scannell

Not Considered
due to Injury
Vakh Abdaladze,
Conor O'Brien,
Dan Leavy,
Adam Byrne,
Max Deegan,
Tommy O'Brien,
Caelan Doris,
David Hawkshaw,
Cian Kelleher,
Jimmy O'Brien,
James Ryan,
Garry Ringrose,
Will Connors

Fineen Wycherley,
Dan Goggin,
Neil Cronin,
RG Snyman,
Paddy Patterson
Officials Referee: Mike Adamson (SRU),
Assistant referees: Sean Gallagher (IRFU), Chris Busby (IRFU),
TMO: Joy Neville (IRFU)

by Jim O'Connor, © 2021-03-26