Blues To Come Good In All-Ireland Clash
Munster v Leinster
St. Stephen’s day sees a titanic clash between the two big Irish provinces of Leinster and Munster at Thomond Park.
Munster made a slow start to their campaign, before they earned a morale boosting victory over Leinster, a result that started a run of five consecutive victories that took them to the top of the Pro 12. But their winning streak came to an end with back to back defeats against Clermont in the European Cup and they suffered a third consecutive loss last weekend, losing 21-18 in Glasgow to drop to third in the table.
Leinster find themselves just a point behind Munster in the Pro 12 table, despite having struggled for consistency all season. They lost three of their first five, including a surprise to defeat to Connacht, and were held to a draw by Treviso. But they have been improving slowly, and have won three of their last four in all competitions, including victory over the current Pro 12 leaders, Ospreys.
Munster are still without some key players including Donnacha Ryan, Damien Varley, Mike Sherry, Keith Earls, Cian Bohane and Gerhard van den Heever, and after making eight changes for the game against Glasgow, coach Anthony Foley may be forced to shuffle his side once again, particularly the forwards, where Donncha O’Callaghan may be in line for a start.
Leinster coach Matt O’Connor also made a number of changes for his side’s latest Pro 12 game, but he is likely to stick with Dave Kearney on the left wing and his brother Rob at full-back. He may tinker with the front row again, but given the limited back-row resources in the squad at the moment, Friday’s trio of Shane Jennings, Kevin McLaughlin and Jamie Heaslip is also likely to be unchanged.
Head to Head
Since the formation of the Celtic League, the forerunner of the Pro-12, Leinster and Munster have met twenty-seven times and Leinster have the edge, winning sixteen of their encounters to Munster’s eleven.
Leinster’s dominance had been even more pronounced in recent seasons, winning seven of their last ten, their latest victory coming last March, a 22-18 success that included a single try scored by the legendary Brian O’Driscoll.
But it was Munster who enjoyed their last meeting, back in October. They raced into a 28-9 half-time lead and then withstood a Leinster comeback to earn a famous victory, their first in the capital since 2008.
Leinster’s home defeat to Munster two months ago was their first ever Pro12 loss at either Lansdowne Road or the Aviva Stadium and the reigning champions will be out for revenge in the return fixture.
That victory kick-started Munster’s surge to the top of the table, but in the last few weeks, the tide has begun to turn and this could be a good time for Leinster to go to Thomond Park. The home side are badly weakened by injuries and after three consecutive defeats, those early season doubts could be creeping in again. Back Leinster at 7/4 in the Match Betting market.