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'It's Munster versus Leinster in the Aviva, so we expect a massive game'

The southern province are battling for a home quarter-final in the URC.

Munster boss Johann van Graan.
Munster boss Johann van Graan.
Image: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

THE AVIVA STADIUM has hosted two fantastic occasions involving more than 40,000 fans each over the last two weekends and there’s another big one this Saturday night as Munster visit Leinster.

After the drama in Europe, this is a return to URC action and a crucial game for Munster, albeit not so for Leinster.

Leo Cullen’s side have already secured top spot in the league, meaning they have earned their home quarter-final as well as a possible home semi-final and final. Their job is done.

Cullen will rotate his front-liners out ahead of the Champions Cup final against La Rochelle in two weekends’ time, but will still be calling on some excellent players. The likes of Devin Toner, Josh Murphy, and Peter Dooley will be hoping for a chance to impress before leaving the province this summer. Many of Leinster’s young guns will be desperate for a chance to impress again.

Meanwhile, Munster are in need of a good result to ensure they too have a home quarter-final and possible home semi-final in the URC. They rested up last weekend as Leinster beat Toulouse and Johann van Graan will send out his best available team on Saturday.

The Munster boss is expecting the usual tough test as his Munster team look to avenge their most recent defeat to Leinster in Thomond Park last month.

“They aren’t URC champions for nothing,” said van Graan. “It’s Munster versus Leinster in the Aviva, so we expect a massive game and it’ll be a tightly-contested encounter.

“You’ve just got to look at the performances [in South Africa], they were over the tryline in the game against the Sharks in Durban, and they came up just short against the Stormers in Cape Town.

“Whatever team they select will be a tough game for us, we’re playing away at the Aviva on Saturday.”

shane-daly-and-craig-casey-arrive-for-training Shane Daly and Craig Casey at Munster training today. Source: Ben Brady/INPHO

Munster’s most recent outing was ultimately a disappointing one as they lost to Toulouse in the Champions Cup quarter-finals on a penalty shoot-out.

But van Graan’s men were excellent in many departments that day and will hope to continue some of the momentum they had built up recently.

“In terms of morale and momentum, we’re in a good place,” said van Graan. “We felt we played really well against Toulouse, it was an excellent game of rugby and we had opportunities to win it in the 80, to win it in the 100. Some opportunities we used and some we didn’t. We got knocked out by virtue of a kick.

“Morale and momentum is certainly on a very positive side in terms of us as a club. In terms of the game at the weekend, it’s the last round of the league and it’s big for all teams.

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“What’s at stake for us is if we can get enough points out of the weekend and get a home quarter-final at Thomond Park, it’s something we targeted at the start of the season. It’s something we’d like to do, but we have to go to Dublin and do it which is no easy task.”

Munster currently sit second in the URC table but the Sharks, Stormers, Ulster, and Bulls are all hovering just behind. Handily, Munster and Leinster are last up this weekend, meaning van Graan and co. will know exactly what they need when they kick off.

“It’s brilliant for the URC the fact that every game has got an effect on the other games,” said van Graan. “The top eight has been confirmed but who finishes where between two and six is to be determined.

“The two Welsh sides will have a massive impact on it and one of them will qualify for Europe, so that will be two big games. We can only enjoy the weekend, do our preparation on Friday, watch it unfold on Friday, then travel to Dublin and we’ve got to perform ourselves on Saturday evening.”

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About the author:

Murray Kinsella

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