| 7°C Dublin

Blues look better prepared to edge Aviva showdown

RABO DIRECT PRO12 LEAGUE Leinster v Munster, Aviva Stadium, TONIGHT (LIVE TG4, 8.0)

You have to go all the way back to September 2008 to find Munster's last win in this capital city. It is a difficult statistic to leisurely put to one side.

Leinster have won all nine matches at the national stadium, whether at Lansdowne Road or the Aviva, since the day Munster halved them in the 2006 Heineken Cup semi-final.

The decision to leave out Brian O'Driscoll, still less than 100pc after the World Cup, leaves the door open for Fergus McFadden, who will be determined to seize his opportunity at 13.

Coach Joe Schmidt has also plumped for the common sense selection of Rob Kearney at full-back and Isa Nacewa on the right wing, where his versatility and mobility make him such a dangerous weapon.

Of course, Munster coach Tony McGahan would point to Munster's superior two-out-of-three return from their Magner's League tangles last season, most destructively in the grand final.

Paul O'Connell's band of brothers brought an unbelievable intensity to Thomond Park that evening. It was simply a bridge too far for a Leinster side that had to dig deeper than ever in the Heineken Cup final the week before.

Maybe it was a lack of depth to his squad that triggered Joe Schmidt's plunge into the transfer market. Former Connacht hooker Sean Cronin and tight-head Jamie Hagan provide real quality from the bench.

Ireland internationals Eoin Reddan, Kevin McLaughlin and Rhys Ruddock as well as Springbok Heinke van der Merwe are all positioned to make an impact.

Munster seem to have sorted out their scrum by making BJ Botha the target of their affection.

He was a monster against Aironi last Friday, tearing the very soul out of a reasonable Italian scrum.

McGahan has chosen the experience of Niall Ronan over the natural leadership of Peter O'Mahony, a fine prospect, in the back row, where the latter still shows a tendency to attract the attention of the referee too often.

The recall of second row Donncha O'Callaghan and centre Lifeimi Mafi also reflect McGahan's preference for battle-hardened experience over the exuberance of youth.

Verdict: Leinster

Leinster: R Kearney; I Nacewa, F McFadden, G D'Arcy, L Fitzgerald; J Sexton, I Boss; C Healy, R Strauss, M Ross, L Cullen (capt), D Toner, S O'Brien, S Jennings, J Heaslip.

Munster: J Murphy; D Howlett, W Chambers, L Mafi, K Earls; R O'Gara, C Murray; W du Preez, D Varley, BJ Botha, D O'Callaghan, P O'Connell (capt), D Ryan, N Ronan, D Leamy.


Privacy