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Leavy gets the nod, Murray's fitness, and more Champions Cup talking points

We reflect on the team news ahead of Munster and Leinster’s Champions Cup quarter-finals

THE TEAM NEWS is in for Munster and Leinster’s Champions Cup quarter-finals tomorrow and the selections have thrown up some intriguing talking points.

Check out Leinster’s team here and Munster’s team here.

You can view the Wasps team to face Leinster here, while the Toulouse side to take on Munster is here.

Leinster go with Leavy

Seven-times capped Ireland international Josh van der Flier, a man who played twice against the All Blacks as recently as November, has to settle for a place on the Leinster bench tomorrow, as the eastern province’s back row depth stands out again.

Dan Leavy and Jack Conan Dan Leavy and Jack Conan at the Aviva Stadium today. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

Dan Leavy is named in the starting back row instead, joining returning Ireland international Sean O’Brien and Jack Conan, who has recovered from a calf issue.

While Jamie Heaslip is missing through injury, it’s still a very strong back row for Leinster, with Leavy and Conan being perhaps their two most in-form players in this area of the team this season.

Van der Flier can be relied on for impact in the second half, but Wasps’ back row will hardly be taking backwards steps at the Aviva Stadium.

James Haskell is highly effective at this level, while Thomas Young – son of head coach Dai – has been superb all season. Nathan Hughes didn’t quite live up to the billing for England in the Six Nations, but his ball-carrying for Wasps is destructive.

Leinster’s Leavy may not be the highest-profile of the back row bunch tomorrow, but one senses that this European quarter-final will provide the next important step in his rise as a force.

Murray named to start for Munster

There has been no official word on whether or not Conor Murray has passed the all-important fitness test on his shoulder injury, but Rassie Erasmus has named him at scrum-half for tomorrow’s meeting with Toulouse.

Conor Murray Source: Donall Farmer/INPHO

With Angus Lloyd not eligible for Munster ‘A”s British and Irish Cup semi-final against Ealing Trailfinders this evening, there is cover there if Murray was to miss out in the end.

It might be that Munster wait until tomorrow morning to carry out the final test on Murray’s shoulder, as Erasmus indicated could be the case earlier this week, but his importance to the province is clear. It would be a shock if he was to be pulled out at a late stage.

Duncan Williams has had a good season and provides great defensive strength in the nine shirt, but Murray’s passing, kicking and playmaking are superior.

Along with Murray, Keith Earls, Donnacha Ryan and Simon Zebo are all back in the Munster XV, bringing international class and fine form with them after a down week last week.

Carbery at fullback for Leinster

Tomorrow is a big day for Joey Carbery, but Leo Cullen and co. will be confident about the 21-year-old’s ability to step up. The Athy man has taken every big achievement in his career in his stride so far.

Joey Carbery Carbery is comfortable at 15. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

Carbery has been retained at fullback by Leinster for the clash with Wasps, in what will be just his fourth professional start in the 15 shirt.

The promising playmaker has previous experience at fullback with Clontarf and in underage rugby, but his only two other Champions Cup starts this season have been in Leinster’s 10 shirt.

Carbery’s attacking qualities are hugely attractive at fullback, with his counter-attacking and vision sure to be a strength for Leinster, while he can also slot in as a first receiver to share the playmaking burden with Johnny Sexton.

He is a very brave one-on-one tackler, although Wasps are sure to test his positional ability in the backfield with their kicking game. Carbery is as smart as they come, however, and will pounce on any loose efforts from Wasps.

Even if it’s not in his preferred 10 shirt, Leinster will expect Carbery to deliver.

Toulouse muscle up

By naming Jean-Marc Doussain at out-half and opting for a 6-2 split on their bench, Toulouse have provided a clear indication about their intent in Thomond Park tomorrow evening.

Richie Gray Richie Gray is part of a powerful Toulouse pack. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

The former European giants have been playing a direct, muscular brand of rugby for some years now, largely built around a physically-imposing pack. While they are still capable of attacking magic in the backline, most of their game plan has tended to be built on their power up front.

Scrum, maul a huge amount of their lineout possession, attempt to bully defenders in the collisions. With six large forwards to come off the bench for the French side in Limerick, Munster can expect more of the same.

When the Toulouse pack get on top in the aforementioned areas, their backline understandably flourishes, meaning Rassie Erasmus’ forwards have an important job on their hands.

The likes of Peter O’Mahony and Donnacha Ryan are likely to relish the challenge.

Wasps bring danger

Wasps have scored 73 tries in the Premiership this season – seven more than next best Exeter – and they trail only Leinster so far in Europe with 28 tries in their six pool games [Leinster notched 31].

Christian Wade 14/1//2017 Christian Wade is lethal in space. Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

The attacking threat has been obvious all season, but seeing the Wasps teamsheet makes it all the clearer.

The back three contains the creative Wallaby Kurtley Beale and unpredictable Springbok Willie le Roux alongside the sensationally pacy Christian Wade, while Elliot Daly can be lethal from outside centre.

Out-half Danny Cipriani and inside centre Jimmy Gopperth are both running threats and distributors, while scrum-half Dan Robson and his back-up Joe Simpson also pose danger around the fringes.

The aforementioned back row is comfortable in a high-tempo game, while locks Joe Launchbury and Kearnan Myall are also mobile.

One has to hope that the importance of the occasion tomorrow does not see Leinster and Wasps tighten up in terms of their attacking instincts and execution. If they play with freedom and ambition, we could be in for an all-time European classic.

What is perfectly clear is that, despite home advantage, Leinster have a very difficult afternoon ahead.

- This article was updated at 2.39pm, removing mention of Munster’s Abrie Griesel, who is injured.

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Murray Kinsella

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