Sunday, December 27, 2015

Preview : Munster v Leinster


***UPDATE : Late changes for Munster....Ryan for Botha (illness), O'Leary for Murray (hip) & RScannell starts 12 with Hurley switching to bench. Williams & Sagario added to squad ***

LEINSTER matchday 23 v Munster : 15. Zane Kirchner 14. Fergus McFadden 13. Garry Ringrose 12. Luke Fitzgerald 11. Isa Nacewa (c) 10. Ian Madigan 9. Eoin Reddan
1. Jack McGrath 2. Sean Cronin 3. Tadhg Furlong 4. Devin Toner 5. Tom Denton 6. Dominic Ryan 7. Sean O’Brien 8. Jamie Heaslip
Bench : 16. James Tracy 17. Cian Healy 18. Marty Moore 19. Ross Molony 20. Josh van der Flier 21. Nick McCarthy 22. Cathal Marsh 23. Dave Kearney

If you were to believe the prevailing narrative at the negative end of internet opinion there would be no point in this match taking place at all.  

Both Munster and Leinster are in crisis, their players are under-performing and need a break, their coaches are clueless, they have no hope of ever winning Europe any more because they haven’t the money, and the fans don’t care enough to even bother going.

Why not just call it off today due to lack of interest?  Chalk it up on the Pro12 table as a 0-0 draw and give everyone some extra time to get over the holiday excesses.

You can tell I’m being sarcastic, right?

Never mind the fact that this match is 4th v 5th where the winner will go into 3rd within touching distance of the top two, both of whom lost yesterday.  Never mind the fact this is one of the biggest rivalries in Irish sport.  Never mind the fact that the Six Nations is around the corner and there are places up for grabs.

And even without all of that, for Leinster fans you have the prospect of watching Garry Ringrose play 80 minutes at senior level in the position he was always meant to play, with tons of experience all around him in the back line.  For Munster fans, you have the prospect of watching Anyone Other Than Ian Keatley run the offence (a bit cruel on the lad but he most definitely DOES need the break).

Most of all, there’s a fascinating back row battle in store : Copeland, O’Donoghue & Stander v Ryan, O’Brien & Heaslip ...they have had varying fortunes with form & injury of late but if they can peak today it will be some tussle...and as if that isn’t enough there’s the up and coming van der Flier and the fit-again O’Donnell ready to join the fray.

For me this match will be decided by set pieces.  I’ll be surprised if one team dominates the other in this area but I won’t be if the winner is the one who makes the most hay out of mistakes.

Bookies have the home side by five.  Despite the fact they have been eerily accurate this season, I got pair of maximum-strength blue goggles in my Christmas stocking so I’m flipping that and saying we’ll win by 4-6 pts, with a controversial decision we’ll be debating ad nauseum thrown in for good measure.

Either way, as always, here’s to a top notch sporting occasion with particular emphasis on the word “sporting”.  JLP

#COYBIB

MUNSTER : Andrew Conway; Keith Earls, Francis Saili, Denis Hurley, Simon Zebo; Tyler Bleyendaal, Conor Murray; James Cronin, Mike Sherry, BJ Botha; Dave Foley, Donnacha Ryan; Robin Copeland, Jack O'Donoghue, CJ Stander Capt.

Replacements: Niall Scannell, Dave Kilcoyne, John Ryan, Billy Holland, Tommy O'Donnell, Tomás O'Leary, Rory Scannell, Lucas Gonzalez Amorosino.

Guinness Pro12 2015/16 Pool 5 Round 10
Sunday, December 27, 2015
At Thomond Park, 5.15pm. Live on Sky Sports and TG4 & RTE Radio
Referee: David Wilkinson (IRFU, 36th competition game)
Assistant Referees: Sean Gallagher, Stuart Gaffikin (both IRFU)
Citing Commissioner: Eddie Walsh (IRFU)
TMO: Simon McDowell (IRFU)


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