Top-four focus has Munster fired-up for Leinster derby
Munster coach Anthony Foley believes that, outside of their meetings in knockout games, Saturday's clash against Leinster is probably the most important league encounter that has taken place between them.
Usually this contest acts as a warm-up to a key European game the following week but the early exit by both sides at the pool stage leaves them with only the Pro12 to play for and it could hardly be closer in the battle for places at the top.
Foley went through enough of these derby games as a player to know that little incentive is needed to bring the best out of either one and with Munster still smarting from a 24-7 drubbing dished out to them over Christmas, his side will be fired-up for Saturday.
"It's a massive inter-pro, it always has been. A lot of fellas that spent a lot of time together over the last two months will be coming up against each other with different jerseys on," said Foley.
"There is a lot of side-shows that will go on, but I think the most important thing is there will be two very good teams going after a win, making sure that they win. So it will lead to a very competitive game I'd imagine."
Former All Black Francis Saili, who missed the record 47-0 win over Zebre on Friday night with a shoulder injury, could be back for Saturday's clash. But Australian international Mark Chisholm is out for the remainder of the season with the lock being rested indefinitely after suffering a concussion against the Dragons earlier this month.
Foley is also bolstering his ranks for next season and has re-signed Munster Academy product Darren O'Shea (23) on a two-deal year from Worcester Warriors, where he spent the last two seasons.
Ulster native John Andress has been signed for one season, with the 32-year old tighthead prop joining from Edinburghs.
But the main focus now is preventing Leinster from doing the double over them for the fifth time in the league and Foley said he can't recall a more important league clash between them outside of when they have met in finals and semi-finals.
"Everyone is still vying for position and trying to make sure they secure Europe first and foremost. I think a lot of teams have that in the front of their minds. It's not something that is that far away.
"And then you want to get top four, then most teams will want to get one of the home semis because traditionally nobody loses them. And that's what I imagine most coaches are going through. It's important that we go up to the Aviva and make sure we show our wares above in our own national stadium."