Preview: Leinster v Munster

Date published: November 4 2011

Leinster and Munster welcome back a number of their international contingent for Friday's RaboDirect PRO12 derby match.

Leinster and Munster welcome back a number of their international contingent for Friday's RaboDirect PRO12 derby match.

Leo Cullen leads a Leinster team which includes 13 Ireland internationals for the visit of Munster.

Gordon D'Arcy who is one of five players in total – including the back-row trio of Jamie Heaslip, Shane Jennings and Sean O'Brien as well as prop Cian Healy – to make their seasonal debuts for the province after their involvement in the Rugby World Cup.

Isaac Boss again partners Jonathan Sexton at half-back, with D'Arcy linking up with Fergus McFadden at centre, with Isa Nacewa returning to the wing after being rested last week.

Up front, Healy joins Richardt Strauss and Mike Ross in the front row with skipper Cullen starting at second row alongside Devin Toner.

Brian O'Driscoll, after further testing, has been given an extra week to recover from the 'stinger' he suffered during the World Cup.

The likes of Sean Cronin, Kevin McLaughlin, Eoin Reddan and Rhys Ruddock are included on the Leinster replacements bench for the game which is already set to be played in front of over 46,000 supporters and counting, making it the third largest attendance in league history.

Meanwhile, Munster have made just a handful changes from the Aironi game – with Donncha O'Callaghan, Lifeimi Mafi, Niall Ronan and Denis Leamy all starting.

Keeping changes to a minimum, just one of three changes comes in the backs, where there's a straight swop – Mafi for Danny Barnes – experience probably the deciding factor in what had to be a close call.

In the pack, it's as you were in the front-row, Damien Varley propped by the South African pairing of Wian du Preez and BJ Botha.

In the second row not surprisingly, Paul O'Connell has his usual sidekick O'Callaghan back alongside with O'Connell's partner from last weekend, Donnacha Ryan, retained in the side but on the blindside flank.

Experience again probably decided the number seven and eight positions – Ronan brought in on the openside at the expense of Peter O'Mahony and Leamy ousting James Coughlan for the number eight jersey, both O'Mahony and Coughlan named on the bench.

“I don't think there are many greater challenges in European rugby than playing the Heineken champions, the number one ranked side in a sell out at the national stadium, a venue they've had wonderful success at,” said Munster coach Tony McGahan.

“So what a perfect way to get back into the RaboDirect but also for the upcoming Heineken Cup, it's a perfect platform to certainly give us a great indication of where we are.”

Form: Leinster's only defeat in their last six RaboDirect PRO12 matches was 19-23 at home to Glasgow Warriors on 17 September. Leinster have won their last nine matches in all competitions at Aviva Stadium/Lansdowne Road since Munster beat them there, in the 2006 European Cup semi-final. Munster's two game losing run ended with their 18-6 defeat of Aironi on Friday. The Munstermen's only previous win at this venue in this tournament was when they beat Ulster 15-9 in the semi-final on 8 December 2001. Munster have won their last six encounters with fellow Irish provinces. Munster won two of the three meetings with Leinster last season including the final at Thomond Park on 28 May. Munster's only win on Leinster soil since 2006 was at the RDS in September 2008.

The teams:

Leinster: 15 Rob Kearney, 14 Isa Nacewa, 13 Fergus McFadden, 12 Gordon D'Arcy, 11 Luke Fitzgerald, 10 Jonathan Sexton, 9 Isaac Boss, 8 Jamie Heaslip, 7 Shane Jennings, 6 Sean O'Brien, 5 Devin Toner, 4 Leo Cullen, 3 Mike Ross, 2 Richardt Strauss, 1 Cian Healy.
Replacements: 16 Sean Cronin, 17 Heinke van der Merwe, 18 Jamie Hagan, 19 Kevin McLaughlin, 20 Rhys Ruddock, 21 Eoin Reddan, 22 Ian Madigan, 23 Eoin O'Malley

Munster: 15 Johne Murphy, 14 Doug Howlett, 13 Will Chambers, 12 Lifeimi Mafi, 11 Keith Earls, 10 Ronan O'Gara, 9 Conor Murray, 8 Denis Leamy, 7 Niall Ronan, 6 Donnnacha Ryan, 5 Paul O'Connell (capt), 4 Donncha O'Callaghan, 3 BJ Botha, 2 Damien Varley, 1 Wian du Preez.
Replacements: 16 Denis Fogarty, 17 Marcus Horan, 18 John Hayes, 19 Peter O'Mahony, 20 James Coughlan, 21 Tomas O'Leary, 22 Ian Keatley, 23 Danny Barnes.

Date: Friday, November 4
Venue: Aviva Stadium
Kick-off: 20:00 GMT
Referee: Pascal Gauzere (France)
Assistant referees: David Wilkinson (Ireland), Simon McDowell (Ireland)
Television match official: Marshall Kilgore (Ireland)