Big game preview: Leinster v Munster

Big game preview: Leinster v Munster

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When Leinster take on Munster, it’s always a special occasion and with two teams in red-hot form, this weekend’s clash is even more fascinating than usual.

Both sides have started the Pro12 season like an express train – with four wins from five seeing Munster lie second in the table and Leinster third.

The atmosphere promises to be electric at the Aviva Stadium – a venue at which Leinster have only ever lost one Pro12 clash, a game against Munster in October 2014.

The Red Army did the league double over their old foes that year but the Boys in Blue got revenge by winning both clashes last season.

And all this adds up to a fixture that is harder to predict than ever before.

Watch out Stander’s about

cj-stander

Former England coach Stuart Lancaster is already making his presence felt since joining the Leinster staff last month with an increased defensive work-rate and consistently heightened line speed paying dividends.

Both those factors will be key if the Blues are to stop and then break down Munster on Saturday.

But it’s not as if the Red Army don’t have some weapons of their own and Lancaster has pinpointed a pair of Ireland internationals as men Leinster must control if they are to find success.

“Conor Murray is clearly key in terms of the accuracy of his kicking game,” said Lancaster.

“CJ Stander is pretty influential as well obviously.

“The key for me is we need to make sure we get ourselves ready. That is why I have focused over the past fortnight on getting our detail right.

“That is what the majority of my time has been spent on. Because I know that if our team get their details right, with the quality of players that we have, we’ll be tough to beat.”

Leinster Rugby Squad Training, Rosemount, UCD 3/10/2016 Senior coach Stuart Lancaster Mandatory Credit ©INPHO/Ryan Byrne

©INPHO/Ryan Byrne

Toughest test yet

Munster have already beaten Scarlets, Newport Gwent Dragons, Edinburgh and Zebre so far this season, with a one-point reverse against Cardiff Blues their only defeat.

But the Leinster clash starts a proverbial murderer’s row of upcoming fixtures with European fixtures against Racing 92 in Paris and Glasgow Warriors in Limerick, and a domestic tussle with Ulster in Belfast on the slate in the next month.

And flanker Billy Holland acknowledges that their great rivals will provide the hardest examination for the Munstermen this campaign.

“The next three weeks are massive, starting with Leinster up at the Aviva,” said Holland .

“We’ve had a few hard games at the start of the season, but no Grade 1, Tier 1 teams as we classify them, so this is our first massive game of the season, so really looking forward to it.

“It’s the top teams in the Pro12 and all European games is what we classify as a Tier 1 side.”

An atmosphere like no other

Credit ©INPHO/Billy Stickland

Credit ©INPHO/Billy Stickland

There is nothing quite like the atmosphere of a Leinster-Munster battle and how players cope with that is often a determining factor in the result.

Men experiencing the fixture for the first time can either rise to the occasion or be overawed by its magnitude.

It also provides a unique challenge for coaches and, about to experience the clash for the first time, Lancaster cannot wait to see what the fuss is about.

“My background over here is limited in terms of club rugby but my perception, having been watching from afar over the last seven, eight, nine years of my coaching career, is this is right up there with any of the games I have just managed,” he added.

“In the UK and Ireland, Leinster and Munster is top table in terms of derbies and so it should be.

“It will be nice to go back to the Aviva. I’ve not been there for a while and such a big crowd will make a fantastic occasion.”

leinster

Team news

Munster have no new injury worries off the back of their 49-5 triumph over Zebre last time out and back-rower Jack O’Donoghue could be back in the fold for this Saturday’s match.

It’s a different story for Leinster however with Dave Kearney and Fergus McFadden ruled out, while Rob Kearney is also unlikely to be fit.

Ireland flanker Sean O’Brien’s recovery from injury is being carefully monitored, so he is unlikely to be risked for the derby but Robbie Henshaw could make his debut for Leo Cullen’s troops.

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