Preview: Munster v Leinster

Date published: December 26 2014

Richardt Strauss will join the Leinster centurion club as he pulls on the jersey for the 100th time at Thomond Park since making his debut in February 2010 against the Scarlets.

Strauss is one of six changes in personnel with a number of positional changes also included in O’Connor’s team to take on Munster.

Michael Bent and Tadhg Furlong complete the front row with Strauss, but Mike McCarthy will lock down behind the trio with Kane Douglas beside him in the second row.

In the back row, with Kevin McLaughlin out injured, Dominic Ryan comes in for his 11th start in 12 games for him so far this season. Shane Jennings has shown no ill-effects from the game last week against Connacht, his first since injuring his hamstring against the same opposition in September, and captains the side at openside flanker. Jack Conan completes the back row.

There are two personnel changes in the backs with Darragh Fanning and Gordon D’Arcy coming in from the start.

With Fanning coming onto the right wing, Zane Kirchner moves to full-back in place of Rob Kearney, with Dave Kearney continuing on the left wing.

Gordon D’Arcy comes into the inside centre slot with Luke Fitzgerald continuing at 13 outside him.

The half-back partnership consists of Isaac Boss and Ian Madigan. Madigan is selected at 10 for the first time since his Man of the Match performance away to Zebre in October.

Meanwhile, Munster’s Anthony Foley makes eight changes to the starting XV that lined out against Glasgow Warriors last Saturday.

The returning trio of Duncan Casey, CJ Stander and Tommy O’Donnell all start this week with Casey joining John Ryan and Stephen Archer in the front row.

Munster’s most capped player Donncha O’Callaghan is promoted from the bench this week and starts next to Billy Holland while in the backrow Robin Copeland retains his place at eight with Stander and O’Donnell coming in at six and seven.

Duncan Williams and Ian Keatley renew their half-back pairing as Hurley, Howard and Conway stay as they were with Ronan O’Mahony coming in on the wing, and Felix Jones at full-back as he captains the side for the third time.

Those not available for selection this week through the national player management programme included Paul O’Connell, Peter O’Mahony, Conor Murray and Simon Zebo.

Form: Munster have slipped to three straight defeats in all tournaments but have not lost four in a row since the end of the 2009/10 season. The Munstermen have won both of their encounters with fellow Irish Provinces this season. Leinster’s only defeat in their last nine fixtures in all competitions was 18-24 at Harlequins in the European Champions Cup on 7th December, whilst their most recent defeat in the Pro12 came when Munster visited Aviva Stadium in early October.

The teams:

Munster: 15 Felix Jones (c), 14 Andrew Conway, 13 Pat Howard, 12 Denis Hurley, 11 Ronan O’Mahony, 10 Ian Keatley, 9 Duncan Williams, 8 Robin Copeland, 7 Tommy O’Donnell, 6 CJ Stander, 5 Billy Holland, 4 Donnacha O’Callaghan, 3 Stephen Archer, 2 Duncan Casey, 1 John Ryan
Replacements: 16 Kevin O’Byrne, 17 Eusebio Gui