Sunday 20 August 2017

Leinster aim for double

Andrew Baldock

Leinster plan a triumphant march on Munster territory tomorrow - and to create Celtic rugby history in the process.

The newly-crowned European champions will arrive at Thomond Park in Limerick aiming to silence the vast majority of a capacity 26,000 crowd.

And they have an added incentive of becoming the first team from Ireland, Scotland or Wales to win the Heineken Cup and Magners League title in one season.

And just six days after beating Northampton in an epic Heineken final at the Millennium Stadium, Leinster's appetite for silverware remains ravenous.

"We know that it is going to be a tough battle against Munster," said Leinster's South Africa-born hooker Richardt Strauss.

"We know them pretty well and they are a physical side. We have to try and stop their momentum, and if we can do that it will be a close game.

"We are a proud squad and are ready to take them on this weekend. We are hungry to win more trophies.

"We have been well managed all season and the coaching staff have looked after us in the run-in to the end of the season, so we are all ready to go."

Both teams are chasing their third Celtic crown, although history favours Munster given that Leinster have won just once in Limerick since 1995.

Munster are also trying to salvage what has been, by their high standards, a season of crushing disappointment.

Although they finished top by 13 points after the 22-game regular league season, a first Heineken Cup pool stage exit since 1998 - followed by an Amlin Challenge Cup home semi-final defeat to eventual winners Harlequins - left them reeling.

But a chance to capture silverware - and end Leinster's double hopes in the process - is not something Munster will give up easily.

"I think when it comes to Munster and Leinster they have helped each other over the years with the rivalry and pushing each other each on," said Munster captain Paul O'Connell.

"It is going to be a very tough challenge for us with the form they are in.

"We are going to need to take every opportunity we get. They are the Heineken Cup holders and there is silverware up for grabs, so both sides will be up for it mentally."

Munster are unchanged from the side that knocked out play-off opponents the Ospreys a fortnight ago, but Leinster show three switches after last weekend.

Fergus McFadden replaces injured centre Gordon D'Arcy, with prop Heinke van der Merwe taking over from Cian Healy and Shane Jennings starting at openside flanker, meaning Sean O'Brien moves to blindside duties.

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