Friday, May 20, 2022

Preview : Leinster v Munster



As much as we look forward to these derbies, there's always some reason for not having full squads isn't there.

I mean, bar the famous semifinals in 2006 and 2009, pretty much every contest between these two great Irish provinces has been influenced by another match, even when it was the Magners League final in 2011, when some (and I mean some, certainly not me) suggested Leinster were suffering from a Cardiff hangover.

And this time it comes a week before a European final, but let's be honest, no matter what the circumstances, there's always another match isn't there. If it's not Europe, it's an international. Nine times out of ten you'll be guaranteed both sets of coaches won't be putting out full squads and that is a real shame, especially for this particular fixture.

It was the same the last time Munster were in Dublin, the Rainbow Cup at the RDS a week before our trip to La Rochelle. And while I think this is a shame, it's ironic because a lot of commentators outside the Irish bubble actually think this is what helps our teams do well overall at both test and interprovincial level.

But it is what it is. We've got Marseille on our minds plus we have 1st place on the URC table in the bag, while Munster can name their top selection knowing they'll have next weekend off. And before I get bombarded with anger, I'm sure there will be another fixture next season where the fortunes are completely reversed.

Still, it is definitely an interesting matchday 23 Leinster have gone for here, and certainly not one that will be for capitulation, so let's have a look at what we have...

BACKS

While there are similarities to the URC team we have been putting out since the turn of the year, overall it's quite a unique XV in many ways.

The principle similarity is in the centre where Ciarán Frawley and Jamie Osborne have had a lot of game time together and if I had to pick one unit where I'd like to see continuity it's here.

But elsewhere we have returning players, and if anyone knows how to light up this fixture it's Jordan Larmour and it's great to see him back. Interesting to see him at full back, however, and I have a feeling he will be tested under a high ball or six on Saturday evening.

Halfbacks are Cormac Foley, who did well in South Africa I have to say, and Harry Byrne, who could really do with a standout performance and this could well be his final opportunity for that this season.

FORWARDS

Always love seeing my old position of loose head getting the captaincy and Ed Byrne will lead out the side, he packs down alongside Sean Cronin for whom this could well be his final appearance for the boys in blue.

The second row sees Joe McCarthy, in Leinster's 23 against both Leicester and Toulouse yet only getting a cameo at the end of each, partnering Josh Murphy, another for whom this could be his final outing as he is bound for Connacht next season. I can see this pair working really well together in all aspects of the game.

Another big returnee from injury is Ryan Baird - I expected him back a lot sooner and it is interesting to see him in the 6 role where I'm sure he'll still be a lineout target yet will have to focus more on his carrying and he certainly knows how to do that.

But you can't look at this pack, especially given the competition it is playing in, without pointing out that try-scoring machines that are both Scott Penny and Max Deegan are starting in the back row and if at least one doesn't score a try then there is something seriously wrong.

BENCH

Quite the variety of experience on the bench, veterans like Cian Healy and Devin Toner, youngsters who impressed in South Africa like Alex Soroka, and even yet another waiting to make his first cap in scrumhalf Ben Murphy. As always its the continuation of defensive cohesion we'll be looking for most of all from this set of eight, assuming the match is still a contest at that stage of course!

OPPOSITION

Not only are Munster full strength but they're even fuller than they have been lately as Andrew Conway has returned to start and you can be sure our back three will be tested by a kick chase to or two in his direction. However they are missing Damien de Allende so we'll see how these two 12/13 combos stack up as Dan Goggin joins Chris Farrell.

But it is in the pack where we should see the separating of these two. Jean Kleyn and the ever up and coming Thomas Ahern are in their second row while Alax Kendellen takes the 7 jersey to up against Penny, will be quite the battle indeed.

As presumptive Ireland back up it it surely incumbent on Joey Carbery to take control of this match and Munster have gone for Conor Murray to partner him so it looks like a traditional approach is forthcoming from our southern cousins, we'll see if they will be too good for us to disrupt them along the way.

PREDICTION

Bookies are predicting a win for the visitors by 6 points and I can most certainly understand that logic. But no matter what the blue selection, I simply cannot bring myself to predict a defeat on home turf and I defy anyone to suggest they can't take motivation from a rare underdog tag to finish on top and I'll be delighted with a one point margin so I'm going for just that.

As both Kino & Keego pointed out on the pod during the week, the Leinster lads will be determined to show they're more than just "second string" and once the match kicks off they will definitely have the home support fully behind them, although I do expect a decent amount of red jerseys around the place, with the usual levels of post-match camaraderie as discussed in another pod with Munster fan Michelle Tobin.

WHERE TO WATCH

Sadly I'm unable to go to the Aviva this week but you can be sure I'll be watching - while the match is available with English commentary on both Premier Sports and URC.tv I never had a problem with TG4 and their coverage tends to be that split second ahead of the alternatives which suits me because I'm always monitoring WhatsApp and Twitter when I watch so I hope to avoid spoilers!

GET INVOLVED IN THE DISCUSSION

As always keep the comments going on the Twitter machine throughout the match then at the fulltime whistle head on over to the Facebook page with your final thoughts, we try to post the best reactions on the Sunday. To everyone going along to the Aviva have a great evening I hope the weather goes your way, here's to a cracking interpro! JLP

Munster : 15 Mike Haley; 14 Andrew Conway, 13 Chris Farrell, 12 Dan Goggin, 11 Keith Earls; 10 Joey Carbery, 9 Conor Murray
1 Josh Wycherley, 2 Niall Scannell, 3 John Ryan; 4 Jean Kleyn, 5 Thomas Ahern; 6 Fineen Wycherley, 7 Alex Kendellen, 8 Jack O’Donoghue (C).
Replacements: 16 Diarmuid Barron, 17 Jeremy Loughman, 18 Keynan Knox, 19 Jason Jenkins, 20 Jack Daly, 21 Craig Casey, 22 Ben Healy, 23 Rory Scannell.

United Rugby Championship 2021/22 - Round 18
Saturday, May 21, 2022
KO 7:15pm
Aviva Stadium

Referee: Frank Murphy (IRFU)
AR 1: Peter Martin (IRFU) 
AR 2: Oisin Quinn (IRFU)
TMO: Brian MacNeice (IRFU)

Live on: TG4, Premier Sport, SuperSport & URC TV


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Taken by JLP from RDS press box on Nov 16, 2019