Lustrous Leinster On Course For Derby Delight
Leinster v Munster
Defending Pro 12 champions Leinster take on home rivals Munster who lie only a point behind The Blues on the table…
The defending Pro12 Champions Leinster find themselves fifth in the table after a start that has been hit and miss. The hits have come in the form of successive home victories against mid-table Welsh sides Scarlets and Cardiff Blues. The misses have come on the road. A narrow defeat to last season’s Pro-12 runners-up Glasgow was not the end of the world, but their loss at Connacht two weeks ago was a surprise.
With two wins and two losses, Munster have the same record as Leinster and are only a point behind in the table, but the form of their results reads much worse than that of their rivals. Their victories over Treviso and Zebre were comfortable, but hardly unexpected, but they have been book-ended by defeats to Edinburgh in their opener and to Ospreys last weekend, both losses coming at Thomond Park.
Leinster’s lengthy injury list has hit double figures. Among the more notable names, Cian Healy and Dave Kearney are long-term absentees, Jordi Murphy and Shane Jennings are still out, and although Sean O’Brien has recovered from ankle surgery, there is now concern about the state of his shoulder. On the plus side, hook Richardt Strauss and prop Jack McGrath may be available for selection this weekend.
But although Leinster are missing several key players, Munster’s squad is looking just as depleted. Donnacha Ryan, Cian Bohane and now Keith Earls are long-term absentees and new signing Tyler Bleyendaal, who injured his neck in a pre-season game, won’t be available until 2015. Andrew Smith, Denis Hurley and Ivan Dineen are available, but the Munster midfield looks particularly weak.
Since the formation of the Celtic League, which was the forerunner of the Pro12, Leinster and Munster have met twenty-six times and Leinster have the edge, winning sixteen of their encounters to Munster’s ten.
Leinster’s dominance has been even more pronounced in recent seasons, winning seven of their last nine, including their latest encounter, a 22-18 victory last March which included a single try, scored by Leinster and Ireland legend Brian O’Driscoll.
Although Leinster have lost two of the last three games they’ve played at the Aviva Stadium, both of those defeats came in European competition.
Their Pro12 record at the venue is much more impressive: thirteen wins from thirteen matches.
Munster have made a slow start under new coach Anthony Foley and this is probably their toughest fixture of the Pro-12 season. Leinster are weakened by injury and haven’t made the best start either, but Munster are in no shape to take advantage, particularly away from home and I can’t see them improving their poor recent record against their bitterest rivals at the Aviva Stadium, where Leinster have such a strong Pro-12 record. I think the home side can win this comfortably.
Back Leinster -7 at odds of 11/10 in the Match Handicap market.