PREVIEW: Leinster v Munster
PRO14 SEMIFINAL: If last season’s epic encounter between these teams in the semifinal was not enough, we get to enjoy round two this weekend.
Leinster were the first team to qualify for the Pro14 Final Series, but have to recover from their Champions Cup Final defeat to Saracens last weekend while Munster arrive fresh from a weekend off.
The visitors were pushed right to the limit by Benetton in their quarterfinal game, but they know there is a much better performance still to come.
It is possibly the last Irish derby of the season which will bring a trials game edge to proceedings ahead of the Rugby World Cup and with one win apiece between the teams this season it will also provide a best of three outcome for the report cards.
Munster opponents have lost just one game in the Pro14 [away to Scarlets] since the start of 2019 and will be bringing that form into the weekend.
“They had two weeks to prepare so they’ll be chomping at the bit now to get going,” said Leinster star Jordan Larmour.
“Always with Munster, they’re very physical, good line speed, good numbers on feet and with the backs they have, they can rip you apart.
“We’ll have a good look at them and see where we can exploit them and come up with a game plan to beat them. With the two weeks to prepare, they’re ready to go.
“We’re looking forward to it. As I said, sold out RDS and we want to give them something to cheer about.”
Lamour is looking forward to a sold-out RDS Arena on Saturday.
“We want to defend our Pro14 title and give something back to the support because Saturday was incredible. The stadium was just a sea of blue, all chanting ‘Leinster’,” says the former St. Andrew’s man.
“A sold-out RDS, it doesn’t get much better than that especially when the place gets going but as always with Munster and Leinster games, it’s pretty hostile and pretty physical.
“We expect nothing less this week. Just looking forward to it now, getting back training and hopefully be selected for the weekend.”
Meanwhile, Munster captain Peter O’Mahony does not think his team can copy Saracens’ blueprint in the Champions Cup Final.
“Yeah, look, they’re a good side,” O’Mahony told independent.ie.
“They were certainly two of the best teams in Europe without a shadow of a doubt, duly made the final and I don’t think we can copy what they do.
“We don’t have quite the same players but look, there’s certain areas we can certainly have a look at it.
“We’re not going to go changing the wheel either. We’ll have a game plan we need to implement this weekend as best as possible and when we do that we’re very hard to beat, regardless of who you’re talking about. So, it’s what we’re going to try and do.
“The intensity and the physicality was brutal. I thought Saracens probably played their best game of the year.
“I didn’t think Leinster played badly – 10-0 up, they were flying it, but they took their chances and to score 20 unanswered points against Leinster isn’t done, by anyone.”
Prediction: Leinster are playing in their ninth Pro14 semifinal in the last ten years, with all those clashes being at the RDS Arena, where their only defeat at this stage was to Scarlets two years ago. Leinster are in the midst of their worst ever home run at the RDS Arena in the Pro14, having gone two games without a win – drawing to Benetton in Round 19 and losing to Glasgow in Round 20. This is Munster’s tenth Championship semifinal where their record is won five, lost four. Munster’s only defeat in the Pro14 since Round 11 was 6-10 at Scarlets on March 2. Munster’s 26-17 defeat of Leinster at Thomond Park in Round 12 ended a run of four successive victories for Leinster in the fixture. The two provinces have met in five previous semifinals in all competitions with Munster taking the first two and Leinster the last three. Munster have made six previous visits to the RDS Arena including two semifinals in 2010 and 2018, but their only victory there was 18-nil in September 2008.
Leinster: 15 Jordan Larmour, 14 Dave Kearney, 13 Garry Ringrose, 12 Robbie Henshaw, 11 James Lowe, 10 Ross Byrne, 9 Luke McGrath, 8 Jack Conan, 7 Josh van der Flier, 6 Rhys Ruddock (captain), 5 James Ryan, 4 Devin Toner, 3 Tadhg Furlong, 2 Seán Cronin, 1 Cian Healy.
Replacements: 16 Bryan Byrne, 17 Ed Byrne, 18 Andrew Porter, 19 Scott Fardy, 20 Max Deegan, 21 Nick McCarthy, 22 Johnny Sexton, 23 Rory O’Loughlin.
Munster: 15 Mike Haley, 14 Andrew Conway, 13 Chris Farrell, 12 Rory Scannell, 11 Keith Earls, 10 Joey Carbery, 9 Conor Murray, 8 Arno Botha, 7 CJ Stander, 6 Peter O’Mahony (captain), 5 Tadhg Beirne, 4 Jean Kleyn, 3 John Ryan, 2 Niall Scannell, 1 Dave Kilcoyne.
Replacements: 16 Kevin O’Byrne, 17 Liam O’Connor, 18 Stephen Archer, 19 Billy Holland, 20 Jack O’Donoghue, 21 Alby Mathewson, 22 JJ Hanrahan, 23 Dan Goggin.
Date: Saturday, May 18
Venue: RDS Arena, Dublin
Kick-off: 14.30 (13.30 GMT)
Referee: Mike Adamson (Scotland)
Assistant referees: Lloyd Linton (Scotland), Keith Allen (Scotland)
TMO: Neil Paterson (Scotland)
Additional sources: @PRO14Official; @leinsterrugby & Irish Independent