Leinster v Munster - teams and predictions
Pro14 FINAL: Munster goes into Saturday’s grand finale against Leinster as underdogs.
Leinster are going in search of a fourth consecutive title, while their visitors chase their first in a decade.
Only Keith Earls and Connor Murray remain from the side that beat Leinster 19-9 on 28 May 2011.
However, the desire for success and the opportunity to give South African-born stalwart Christiaan Stander the perfect farewell will be the driving force behind their title hopes.
Leinster is a tall order for any team, especially as Leo Cullen’s side amassed 71 from a possible 80 points in Pro14 league action.
They have beaten Munster in their last five consecutive encounters.
Munster believes things might be different this time around.
The Irish province’s South African coach, Johann van Graan, has slowly built a tough Munster machine, one that only narrowly lost (10-13) to Leinster in the pool stages last time out.
The imminent retirement of Stander, who has played more than 150 games for Munster since joining from the Bulls in 2012, will motivate them.
Ireland gave Stander the perfect test send-off with their win over England, and now Stander gets a chance to get the perfect Pro14 send-off as well.
Van Graan praised the work ethic of Stander this week, saying he turned up on Monday just wanting to contribute to the side’s campaign.
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“He came in on Monday and said it’s a massive game for the province. It has never been about him, it’s always been about the team,” Van Graan said.
“His character speaks for itself in terms of that and look, it would be great to win this game for a whole lot of reasons, and one of them will be CJ.”
Stander has been a big part of Munster’s resurgence over the past few years and has given his all whatever the game or conditions. This is why there is a tinge of emotion surrounding his appearance, even though it won’t be the last game in the red jersey for Stander.
“CJ’s been fantastic for Irish and Munster rugby, he’s played over 150 games for the club and we’ve got a final to look forward to,” Van Graan said.
“But this is not the end for CJ at Munster, we’ve got a European tie after this week against Toulouse and a whole host of games up until the end of June, so it’s another step in our journey of the season.
“But from CJ’s individual point of view, great for him to get a win in his last Test for Ireland, it was really emotional and a great send-off for him.”
Leinster are odds-on favourites, despite the rare loss to Ospreys last weekend.
They are a team that knows how to win and have won the last three Pro14 titles.
“I don’t think finals are about trick plays. Every team has something up their sleeve on both sides of the ball, but it’s about doing your basics well,” Van Graan added.
“Finals are strange things. It’s about the team that handles the pressure the most. So we’ll go in with our basic plan and execute that as well as we can and then adapt on the day.
“Whether that’s to the opponents, the weather, the referee or the scoreboard. We’ll be looking to execute our basics exceptionally well and then adapt on the day.”
Head to head
@rugby365com: Leinster by 10 points
Leinster: 15 Hugo Keenan, 14 Jordan Larmour, 13 Rory O’Loughlin, 12 Robbie Henshaw, 11 Dave Kearney, 10 Ross Byrne, 9 Luke McGrath (captain), 8 Jack Conan, 7 Josh van der Flier, 6 Rhys Ruddock, 5 Scott Fardy, 4 Devin Toner, 3 Andrew Porter, 2 Rónan Kelleher, 1 Cian Healy.
Replacements: 16 James Tracy, 17 Ed Byrne, 18 Tadhg Furlong, 19 Ross Molony, 20 Ryan Baird, 21 Jamison Gibson-Park, 22 Johnny Sexton, 23 James Lowe.
Munster: 15 Mike Haley, 14 Andrew Conway, 13 Chris Farrell, 12 Damian de Allende, 11 Keith Earls, 10 Joey Carbery, 9 Conor Murray, 8 CJ Stander, 7 Peter O’Mahony (captain), 6 Gavin Coombes, 5 Tadhg Beirne, 4 Jean Kleyn, 3 John Ryan, 2 Niall Scannell, 1 James Cronin.
Replacements: 16 Kevin O’Byrne, 17 Dave Kilcoyne, 18 Stephen Archer, 19 Billy Holland, 20 Jack O’Donoghue, 21 Craig Casey, 22 JJ Hanrahan, 23 Rory Scannell.
Date: Saturday, March 27
Venue: RDS Arena, Dublin
Kick-off: 17.00 (17.00 GMT)
Referee: Mike Adamson (Scotland)
Assistant referees: Sean Gallagher (Ireland)), Chris Busby (Ireland)
TMO: Joy Neville (Ireland)
* There are also two catch-up matches
Saturday, March 27
Glasgow Warriors v Benetton
Glasgow Warriors: 15 Ollie Smith, 14 Ratu Tagive, 13 Nick Grigg, 12 Robbie Fergusson, 11 Lee Jones, 10 Ross Thompson, 9 George Horne, 8 TJ Ioane, 7 Fotu Lokotui, 6 Kiran McDonald, 5 James Scott, 4 Richie Gray, 3 Enrique Pieretto, 2 Fraser Brown (captain), 1 Aki Seiuli.
Replacements: 16 Johnny Matthews, 17 Dylan Evans, 18 D’arcy Rae, 19 Hamish Bain, 20 Thomas Gordon, 21 Sean Kennedy, 22 Ian Keatley, 23 Niko Matawalu.
Benetton: 15 Edoardo Padovani, 14 Ratuva Tavuyara, 13 Joaquin Riera, 12 Marco Zanon, 11 Angelo Esposito, 10 Tommaso Allan, 9 Luca Petrozzi, 8 Riccardo Favretto, 7 Manuel Zuliani, 6 Alberto Sgarbi (captain), 5 Federico Ruzza, 4 Niccolò Cannone, 3 Marco Riccioni, 2 Gianmarco Lucchesi, 1 Thomas Gallo.
Replacements: 16 Corniel Els, 17 Derrick Appiah, 18 Ivan Nemer, 19 Nicola Piantella, 20 Eli Snyman, 21 Charly Trussardi, 22 Jayden Hayward, 23 Tommaso Benvenuti.
Venue: Scotstoun, Glasgow
Kick-off: 13.45 (14.45 Italian time; 13.45 GMT)
Referee: Frank Murphy (Ireland)
Assistant referees: Sam Grove-White (Scotland), Ben Blain (Scotland)
TMO: Neil Paterson (Scotland)
Sunday, March 28
Dragons v Edinburgh
Dragons: 15 Jordan Williams, 14 Jonah Holmes, 13 Aneurin Owen, 12 Jack Dixon, 11 Ashton Hewitt, 10 Sam Davies, 9 Gonzalo Bertranou, 8 Ross Moriarty, 7 Harrison Keddie (captain), 6 Aaron Wainwright, 5 Matthew Screech, 4 Joe Davies, 3 Lloyd Fairbrother, 2 Richard Hibbard, 1 Brok Harris.
Replacements: 16 Elliot Dee, 17 Greg Bateman, 18 Leon Brown, 19 Ben Carter, 20 Ben Fry, 21 Rhodri Williams, 22 Nick Tompkins, 23 Evan Lloyd.
Edinburgh: 15 Blair Kinghorn, 14 Jack Blain, 13 Mark Bennett, 12 Chris Dean, 11 Eroni Sau, 10 Jaco van der Walt, 9 Henry Pyrgos (co-captain), 8 Mesu Kunavula, 7 Luke Crosbie, 6 Magnus Bradbury (co-captain), 5 Jamie Hodgson, 4 Marshall Sykes, 3 Lee-Roy Atalifo, 2 Sam Kitchen, 1 Murray McCallum.
Replacements: 16 Patrick Harrison, 17 Shaun Gunn, 18 Angus Williams, 19 Andries Ferreira, 20 Connor Boyle, 21 Charlie Shiel, 22 Matt Currie, 23 George Taylor.
Venue: Rodney Parade, Newport
Kick-off: 14.00 (13.00 GMT)
Referee: Craig Evans (Wales)
Assistant referees: Ben Whitehouse (Wales), Adam Jones (Wales)
TMO: Jon Mason (Wales)