Planet Rugby

Preview: Leinster v Munster

28th March 2014 11:52

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rob penney peter omahony munster

Back in action: Peter O'Mahony

Munster head coach Rob Penney has made a total of ten changes for his side's crunch clash with rivals Leinster on Saturday in Dublin.

The Munstermen trail their provincial counterparts by two points in second place in the PRO12, with Penney restoring a large number of his Irish international contingent to the starting lineup.

Paul O'Connell, Peter O'Mahony, Conor Murray and Tommy O'Donnell all return to the side after helping Ireland to the Six Nations Championship.

Ian Keatley, man-of-the-match when Munster beat Leinster 19-15 at Thomond Park in October. returns to the side to partner Murray in the half-backs. Keatley will be looking to reach 500 points for Munster, the fly-half has scored 497 points in his 67 appearances.

Denis Hurley comes in to partner Casey Laulala in the centres with Laulala set to make his 47th appearance after less than two years at the province.

Simon Zebo is named on the left wing and will earn his 60th Munster cap with Keith Earls, who made a try-scoring return from injury last week, and full-back Felix Jones maintaining their places.

Props Dave Kilcoyne and BJ Botha are both drafted into the side to join hooker Damien Varley in the front row.

O'Connell, who missed the Treviso clash with a slight shoulder niggle, joins Dave Foley in the second-row with captain O'Mahony coming into a back-row that also includes O'Donnell and James Coughlan, who keeps his place.

Duncan Casey, James Cronin and Alan Cotter are the front-row replacements. Record appearance holder Donncha O'Callaghan and CJ Stander complete the cover in the forwards. Duncan Williams, JJ Hanrahan and Gerhard van den Heever are also named in the squad and will be hoping to make an impact off the bench.

On the injury front, Donnacha Ryan is wearing a protective boot after a specialist identified a strain under his right foot. It is not a common injury and will need to be treated and monitored on a week-to-week basis.

Cotter is included on the bench after Stephen Archer pulled up in training yesterday while fellow prop John Ryan is progressing well following return-to-play protocols after a concussion against Treviso last weekend.

Meanwhile, there is also a welcome return for a number of the Six Nations winning Irish players in the Leinster lineup. However with the majority only returning to Leinster training last Monday, a few have been held back with an eye on next week and giving them an additional week to recover.

With niggling injuries persisting for Cian Healy, Jack McGrath, Marty Moore and Tadhg Furlong, the front row is still made up of full internationals with Michael Bent, Richardt Strauss and Mike Ross selected. Strauss starts for cap number 90 in Leinster colours.

Devin Toner and Mike McCarthy make up the second row combination, Toner fresh from a first full Six Nations campaign with Ireland.

Jamie Heaslip is back to captain the side from number eight, with Kevin McLaughlin and Shane Jennings completing the Leinster pack.

Plenty of experience in the backs as well with last weeks' centurion Ian Madigan again selected at fly-half, with Eoin Reddan beside him and closing in on his own century. Saturday's sold out game will be the 98th Leinster cap for the Limerick man.

The starting wingers are Luke Fitzgerald and Fergus McFadden with Gordon D'Arcy and Brian O'Driscoll back to continue their record breaking centre partnership. Rob Kearney returns to fill the full-back slot, with Zane Kirchner on the bench.

Otherwise, Rhys Ruddock is still nursing a calf injury and Dave Kearney took a knock in training on Thursday and is another who will not be risked for this game. Both will be assessed again early next week but other Six Nations winners Jordi Murphy, Sean Cronin and Isaac Boss are included in the match day 23.

Form: Leinster have won their last nine matches in all tournaments and have dropped only two points out of a possible thirty in their last six PRO12 fixtures.

The Leinstermen have lost on their last two visits to Aviva Stadium, but both of these games were in the European Cup, however the Leinstermen have won all twelve previous PRO12 games they have played at the venue.

Munster's only defeat in their last seven matches in all tournaments was 13-18 at the Scarlets in round 16 of the PRO12. The Munstermen have lost on their last four visits to the home of Irish Rugby since they beat Leinster at the old Lansdowne Road in the semi-final of the European Cup in 2006.

Munster beat Leinster 19-15 at Thomond Park in round 5 and are going for a first regular season double over their fiercest rivals since 2008/09.

The teams:

Leinster: 15 Rob Kearney, 14 Fegus McFadden, 13 Brian O'Driscoll, 12 Gordon D'Arcy, 11 Luke Fitzgerald, 10 Ian Madigan, 9 Eoin Reddan, 8 Jamie Heaslip (c), 7 Shane Jennings, 6 Kevin McLaughlin, 5 Mike McCarthy, 4 Devin Toner, 3 Mike Ross, 2 Richardt Strauss, 1 Michael Bent
Replacements: 16 Sean Cronin, 17 Jack O'Connell, 18 Ed Byrne, 19 Leo Cullen, 20 Jordi Murphy, 21 Isaac Boss, 22 Jimmy Gopperth, 23 Zane Kirchner

Munster: 15 Felix Jones, 14 Keith Earls, 13 Casey Laulala, 12 Denis Hurley, 11 Simon Zebo, 10 Ian Keatley, 9 Conor Murray, 8 James Coughlan, 7 Tommy O'Donnell, 6 Peter O'Mahony (c), 5 Paul O'Connell, 4 Dave Foley, 3 BJ Botha, 2 Damien Varley, 1 Dave Kilcoyne
Replacements: 16 Duncan Casey, 17 James Cronin, 18 Alan Cotter, 19 Donncha O'Callaghan, 20 CJ Stander, 21 Duncan Williams, 22 JJ Hanrahan, 23 Gerhard van der Heever

Date: Saturday 29th March
Venue: Aviva Stadium
Kick-off: 1900 (local & GMT)
Referee: Alain Rolland (Ire)
Assistant referees: David Wilkinson, Michael Black (both Ire)
TMO: Simon McDowell (Ire)

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