Sunday 22 October 2017

Some tough selection decisions as we pick a combined Leinster/Munster XV

8 October 2016; Jonathan Sexton of Leinster in action against Darren Sweetnam of Munster during the Guinness PRO12 Round 6 match between Leinster and Munster at the Aviva Stadium in Lansdowne Road, Dublin. Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile
8 October 2016; Jonathan Sexton of Leinster in action against Darren Sweetnam of Munster during the Guinness PRO12 Round 6 match between Leinster and Munster at the Aviva Stadium in Lansdowne Road, Dublin. Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile
Will Slattery

Will Slattery

We are three days away from the latest installment of Irish rugby's greatest rivalry, the annual signal that the season is ready to fully kick into action.

Leinster and Munster may have played five PRO 14 games each this season, but it won't be until they take the field at the Aviva Stadium this Saturday that they truly get a measure of how near or far away they are from the performance level that will be needed when the Champions Cup starts the following weekend.

Both provinces only welcomed their Lions back into the team last weekend, so for many players this Saturday's clash will be their toughest physical test for a number of months.

Both Leinster and Munster are coming off relatively successful seasons last year - with both having returned to the Champions Cup semi-final stage - and each have won four games out of five in this campaign, so there isn't much to pick between the sides.

By way of assessing the relative strength of each team, we've selected a combined XV, with Leinster edging Munster by nine selections to six.

Rassie Erasmus' men were unlucky not take every back three jersey, with Joey Carbery's attacking thrusts - though not as incisive so far this season as they were in the previous campaign - enough to force Andrew Conway to the wing and keep Darren Sweetnam and the returning Keith Earls out.

With Garry Ringrose's injury, new Munster recruit Chris Farrell makes the cut at outside centre while Robbie Henshaw, who is set to return from his own ailment in time for this weekend, is nailed on at 12.

The Irish half-backs predictably get the call, as do the starting props from the 2017 Six Nations, with Sean Cronin's dynamism seeing him pip the improving Niall Scannell.

Seasoned internationals Scott Fardy and Devin Toner complete the front five, while the back row is, as always, the toughest to decide.

Any coach would love Jack Conan, Josh van der Flier, Dan Leavy, Rhys Ruddock, or Tommy O'Donnell in their team, but three Lions get the nod instead.

Here is our full combined Leinster and Munster XV:

15. Joey Carbery

14. Andrew Conway

13. Chris Farrell

12. Robbie Henshaw

11. Simon Zebo

10. Johnny Sexton

9. Conor Murray

1. Jack McGrath

2. Sean Cronin

3. Tadhg Furlong

4. Scott Fardy

5. Devin Toner

6. Peter O'Mahony

7. Sean O'Brien

8. CJ Stander

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