Monday 20 November 2017

Luke Fitzgerald expecting 'niggle' in Leinster-Munster derby and he wants to see strong teams selected

Luke Fitzgerald, inset, is expecting plenty of needle this weekend
Luke Fitzgerald, inset, is expecting plenty of needle this weekend
Independent.ie Newsdesk

Independent.ie Newsdesk

Luke Fitzgerald has reassured Leinster and Munster fans that while the relationship between the provinces appears to be cordial, there is still bite in this fixture.

Over 43,000 tickets have been sold for the biggest rugby fixture in Europe this weekend at the Aviva Stadium.

Speaking on The Left Wing podcast, Irish Independent rugby correspondent Ruaidhri O'Connor said he believed that a classic game or a European knockout fixture was needed to reignite the rivalry.

Fitzgerald believes that the niceties are a facade and that behind-the-scenes, both sides will be gunning for each other.

"There's is not much niggle publicly but behind closed doors, there definitely is a bit of niggle," he said.

"One of the subplots is that these games play a huge part in who plays in November.

"There are loads of guys who I think can force their way into Joe Schmidt's plans who are playing in this game and with the Lions coming back as well, it adds a little bit more to the fixture.

"I still think it's huge. I'm really excited about it."

Fitzgerald's former Leinster and Ireland teammate Eoin Reddan had suggested earlier this week that having an inter-provincial derby on the week before Leinster face Montpellier at the RDS and Munster travel to Castres was detrimental to the provinces but Luke doesn't see it that way.

"I liked a big game before (Europe), you get to feel a bit of that extra pressure, you got to play against guys who were really up for it, which is what you'll be facing the weekend after and I thought it was great for preparation," he added

With five rounds of the new Guinness Pro14 season completed, Fitzgerald is pleased with how the Cheetahs have taken to the competition, even though their South African compatriots at the Souther Kings have struggled badly, but believes that the biggest problems facing the league is big players being rested for big games.

Derby fixtures over the past few seasons have seen some provinces opt to rest key players and the former Ireland utility back wants to see an end to the practice.

"The big issue for the league is that you've got to get the best guys playing week-in, week out. If you look at the Premiership or the Top14, you want to rest guys and they have probably gone too far the other way, but you can't have a fixture where there is a Leinster-Munster game and 26,000 people at Thomond Park and Leinster are bringing down a weakened team.

"That's the big issue for me that the Pro14 need to address. If they want sponsors to come on board, if they want hype about big fixtures, you can't have that.

"There is a bigger issue with the selections for these big matches than bringing in South African teams."

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Subscribe to The Left Wing, Independent.ie's Rugby podcast, with Luke Fitzgerald and Will Slattery for the best discussion and analysis each week. From in depth interviews with some of Irish rugby's biggest stars to unmatched insights into the provinces and the national team, The Left Wing has all your rugby needs covered.

Listen and subscribe to The Left Wing on iTunes and Soundcloud.

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