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Dublin: 6°C Sunday 28 February 2021

5 reasons to get excited for the festive Pro12 inter-pros

Two cracking games are in store as Connacht take on Munster this evening, and Ulster visit Leinster tomorrow.

Marty Moore is one of several young Irish props to get a chance.
Marty Moore is one of several young Irish props to get a chance.
Image: ©INPHO/Ryan Byrne

Young props get their chances

The next two days give us the opportunity to run the rule over some of the most exciting young props in the country. Marty Moore – the great hope to fill Ireland’s number three jersey in the future – starts for Leinster opposite Ulster’s Callum Black, who is 27 but showing signs of major progress this season.

Meanwhile, Rob Penney has given James Cronin [23] and John Ryan [25] the task of overcoming the experienced Connacht duo of Brett Wilkinson and Nathan White. Cronin has been the find of the season down south and his battle with Dave Kilcoyne in the coming years will be thrilling. Connacht sub Denis Buckley [23] has been superb from the bench in the past month.

Sean O’Brien returns

Leinster’s last two games offered further evidence – if it was even needed – of the importance of Sean O’Brien and Cian Healy to the team as primary ball carriers. Matt O’Connor will be without the latter for another month, but the return of O’Brien to the starting team to face Ulster on Saturday evening is hugely welcome.

Rugby is so often a momentum game; fail to get over the gainline and few of your attacking tactics and ideas will work. It’s been a clear problem for Leinster in recent weeks, but the addition of ‘The Tullow Tank’ should go some way to remedying it. Furthermore, O’Brien’s big plays bring the best out in his teammates.

Darren Cave backing up his words

Earlier this month, the Ulster centre was honest in expressing his frustration at his continuing international non-inclusion. It was hardly surprising that such an established member of one of Europe’s leading teams feels he should have more than five caps for his country. If Cave doubted himself in this regard, he wouldn’t be much of a player at all.


Cave will be looking to stand out in the next two games. ©INPHO/James Crombie

It’s not like he hasn’t already staked his claim before, but the inter-pro against Leinster tomorrow night, and then the clash with Munster six days later present the 26-year-old with opportunities to impress Joe Schmidt in an all-Irish setting. Up against a midfield partnership of Noel Reid and Brendan Macken at the RDS, Cave must demonstrate his excellence.

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Munster’s fringe forwards asked to step up

With JJ Hanrahan the only surviving member of the team that beat the Scarlets last weekend, Penney has handed starts to a handful of players who haven’t had too many of them. With the promising Duncan Casey ruled out, Niall Scannell gets the nod at hooker. The former Ireland U20 captain is a skillful, hard-working player and must show his aggressive edge against Connacht.

Dave Foley gets his fifth start of the campaign – the most the Clonmel man has ever made in one professional season. The 25-year-old is one of the best line-out operators in the country, so keep an eye on him in that area. In the back row, Paddy Butler returns from a thumb injury and it will be interesting to note whether his powerful ball carrying makes Munster more potent in attack.

Zane Kirchner to continue impressing?

imageKirchner is settling well at Leinster. ©INPHO/Dan Sheridan.

The 29-year-old’s signing was initially met with quite a muted reaction in Leinster and Ireland, particularly given his 28 caps for the Springboks. The impression of Kirchner was a solid, unspectacular, and maybe even limited, fullback. However, the South African is slowly shifting that perception to something far more exciting.

It’s still too early to call his move a success, but Kirchner has set about impressing in his seven appearances so far. It now seems possible that the game plans with the Blue Bulls and Springboks may have limited the fullback’s ability to showcase his attacking skills, and he appears somewhat liberated by the move to Ireland. New haircut and new ideas.

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About the author:

Murray Kinsella

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