Sunday 20 October 2019

'Munster will come out all guns blazing,' warns Ruddock

Derby fever: There’s a huge heritage and history, so to win there is extra special – Ruddock. Photo: Sportsfile
Derby fever: There’s a huge heritage and history, so to win there is extra special – Ruddock. Photo: Sportsfile

Rúaidhrí O'Connor

Both Munster and Leinster are expected to be at close to full strength for Saturday's eagerly anticipated derby clash at Thomond Park.

Leinster rested a host of players last season and still won the annual fixture but this time around Leo Cullen is set to field a team that includes some of his biggest hitters, with Johnny Sexton and Tadhg Furlong among those in the frame.

Cullen rested a slew of front-liners for last Saturday's narrow win over Connacht at the RDS as he manages his resources between rounds four and five of the European Champions Cup.

Likewise, Johann van Graan left most of his Ireland stars out of the team to play Ulster last Friday, and that defeat means his team go into their biggest home PRO14 game of the campaign on the back foot after back-to-back losses.

He rolled out his big guns for this fixture last season and the large home crowd came away disappointed, with Jordan Larmour scoring a stunning try to seal the win.

Munster haven't lost at home since, and the clash with Leinster is their only home game in a run of five fixtures.

After losing in Castres and Belfast, Van Graan is targeting the kind of performance that can give the team a real lift ahead of their trips to Connacht and Gloucester.

"I'm not a guy who makes predictions normally but I believe this will be Leinster versus Munster at full strength. Both teams will be as close to fully loaded as can be," he said of the game.

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"Obviously certain guys will need a rest and some of our guys need a two-week break.

"But from our side we are so looking forward to playing them at home again."

After beating Connacht with a last-gasp Andrew Porter try at the RDS on Saturday, Leinster's vice-captain Rhys Ruddock is hoping for a better performance when the team make the journey down the M7.

And he is expecting Munster to follow the Westerners' lead by trying to get the better of the European champions in the physical stakes.

"We need to learn that teams are going to try and physically impose themselves on us over these next couple of weeks," he said.

"Let's make sure we stick to the plan and get the job done there really because we gave Connacht a lot of momentum and really hurt ourselves, but credit to them, I thought they played really well and tested us.

"We can probably count ourselves lucky. As much as we dug in, we probably got away with one.

"It's kind of a funny one. We are disappointed about some things… when we scored that try it was a special feeling because all the people and the atmosphere was pretty special.

"So we're really grateful because it would have been easy for a lot of people on a cold winter's night to think the game is done and dusted and it's time to leave.

"The fact that they stayed and showed that belief and spurred us on.

"It was definitely a special feeling scoring that try at the end."

Ruddock is relishing the fact that the game isn't on today as it has been in recent years.

"As amazing and special as the games are on St Stephen's Day, I always like to have a bid feed on Christmas day and I can't help myself!" he said.

"Just to have those extra few days is nice and I think the atmosphere will be just as special down there so it's a win-win for us.

"I haven't played down there in a good few years but from my experience it's a special place to go so I think everyone would be going in for that one and love to be involved.

"Winning away from home is extra special, especially playing a team like that. There's a huge heritage and history of being successful, especially when they play down there, so yeah to get a win there is extra special."

The Ireland flanker was impressed with an understrength Munster team's display in defeat at the Kingspan Stadium.

"I thought Munster were good," he said. "They rested a lot of players and still really put it up to Ulster.

"Rory (Best)'s couple of offloads, they really were the difference. Other then that, it was a really, really tight battle and either team could have come away with it.

"It's exciting couple of weeks because Connacht were the better team for 70 minutes and we managed to come away with the win.

"It shows how much competition there is between the four provinces. Everyone is playing well so it's good.

"A few of the guys got a rest this week so I'm sure they'll be raring to go as well, but Munster are going to come out all guns blazing having rested a few guys as well.

"It will be a big test."

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