Leinster’s shock defeat to Ospreys last Friday could prove to be a terrible result for Munster as it will only have woken the Dubliners up as they chase their eighth League title and fourth in a row.
In what amounted to nothing more than a dead rubber, Leinster were beaten for only the time second time in the PRO14 this season, conceding three late tries whilst they were down to 14 men.
But Leinster normally play their A-game against a Munster side that has been threatening, unsuccessfully to date, to lower their colours and bring the long dynasty of success to an end.
It was the same last season, when the teams met at the semi-final stage. There was only ever going to be one winner that day, with Leinster hardly having to move out of third gear to see off the men in red, 13-3.
Have Munster genuinely improved from that shocker last September? You’d have to say yes, but enough to win when it maters? We think not.
Their results are more consistent and a guy like Gavin Coombes is the real deal, but the PRO14 standard across league has generally been average to poor and Munster still lost to Leinster in January.
Ireland trio Will Connors, Garry Ringrose and James Ryan have been ruled through injury, but Leinster’s matchday squad still includes 22 international players (21 Irish & 1 Australian).
Devin Toner breaks the Leinster record for appearances having been named in the second row, while Luke McGrath returns from a head injury to captain the side from scrum-half.
Ireland Six Nations stars Keith Earls, Conor Murray, Tadhg Beirne, Peter O’Mahony and CJ Stander all start for Munster who include Rugby World Cup winner Damian de Allende in their backline
With Toulon in the Heineken Champions Cup waiting on the horizon for Leinster, it would be easy for Leo Cullen’s side to take their eye off the ball. But they won’t be in any mood to relinquish their grip on the trophy just yet and we believe Munster’s 10-year wait for silverware will continue.
Coombes, at 9/2, however, does look good value to score a try in the 80 minutes given the outstanding form he has been in.
Leinster: Hugo Keenan, Jordan Larmour, Rory O’Loughlin, Robbie Henshaw, Dave Kearney, Ross Byrne, Luke McGrath (CAPT); Cian Healy, Rónan Kelleher, Andrew Porter, Devin Toner, Scott Fardy, Rhys Ruddock, Josh van der Flier, Jack Conan.
Replacements: James Tracy, Ed Byrne, Tadhg Furlong, Ross Molony, Ryan Baird, Jamison Gibson-Park, Johnny Sexton, James Lowe.
Munster: Mike Haley; Andrew Conway, Chris Farrell, Damian de Allende, Keith Earls; Joey Carbery, Conor Murray; James Cronin, Niall Scannell, John Ryan; Jean Kleyn, Tadhg Beirne; Gavin Coombes, Peter O’Mahony (CAPT), CJ Stander.
Replacements: Kevin O’Byrne, Dave Kilcoyne, Stephen Archer, Billy Holland, Jack O’Donoghue, Craig Casey, JJ Hanrahan, Rory Scannell.