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Munster men get last Lions audition as Leinster shake team up for inter-pro

The two provinces have different agendas ahead of this evening’s Rainbow Cup clash.

Leinster's Scott Penny and Munster's CJ Stander.
Leinster's Scott Penny and Munster's CJ Stander.

WHILE LEINSTER HAVE taken the opportunity to mix things up, Munster’s decision to go pretty much full-strength for this evening’s clash at the RDS [KO 7.35pm eir Sport/deferred coverage on TG4 at 9.45pm] tells us how much they want to end the losing streak.

It might only be a Rainbow Cup game but Johann van Graan and co. probably feel that victory in Dublin here can help them to start healing the psychological scars they have been carrying into this fixture for some time now.

No one in Munster will be getting carried away if they pull off a win on the road but simply getting a taste for success against Leinster for the first time since 2018 would be thoroughly welcomed.

And so, van Graan has opted for his strongest team aside from Gavin Coombes, who is part of the Munster bench. Andrew Conway is absent from the matchday 23 but hasn’t been at his best this season whenever he has been available. 

Shane Daly deserves a start on the left wing, while all of Munster’s star names will be on show including Damian de Allende, Keith Earls, Conor Murray, Joey Carbery, Tadhg Beirne, CJ Stander, and captain Peter O’Mahony.

Van Graan and co. likely felt the need to be fair to their leading players. This is the last time that Murray, Stander, Beirne, and any other Lions hopefuls in the Munster ranks will have to play before Warren Gatland names his squad on 6 May. As such, it would be a surprise if they don’t play out of their skins this evening.

There is also something of a risk in the strength of Munster’s selection. How dispiriting it would be for van Graan’s front-liners to lose against a Leinster team that involves a degree of rotation and opportunity for younger players.

To be fair, some of Munster’s promising young guns are not available this week through injury or involvement in Ireland U20s and 7s training camps. The southern province will likely use more of them in the coming weeks but Leinster nearly always have an element of youth in their teams.

jordan-larmour-celebrates-after-scoring-a-try-with-garry-ringrose Garry Ringrose returns to captain Leinster. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Tonight, 21-year-old Harry Byrne is in Leinster’s number 10 shirt, with 23-year-old Hugh O’Sullivan given a big start at scrum-half. At hooker, 22-year-old Dan Sheehan gets a chance to continue the positive impression he has made so far this season and 21-year-old Scott Penny returns from a hand injury at openside.

Ed Byrne and Andrew Porter rotate into the prop positions, while Ross Molony and Josh Murphy – two vital Leinster squad players – are deservedly given starting opportunities here. 

There is still plenty of Ireland-capped quality in the Leinster team in the likes of Jordan Larmour, James Lowe, and hotshot Ryan Baird, while there are welcome returns from injury for Garry Ringrose – captaining the side – James Ryan and Caelan Doris.

With La Rochelle to come in the Heineken Champions Cup semi-finals next weekend, Leinster will hope that final trio come through unscathed and add to the options for the European tie.

That is clearly where Leinster’s priorities lie and that game also serves as a major extra motivation for their players against Munster today. With a matchday 23 to be picked for the La Rochelle tie, a strong performance in the RDS today would be timely.

The two provinces approach this one from very different standpoints and there has been very little hype in the build-up due to the general lack of excitement about the Rainbow Cup without the South African teams.

But it will still be full-blooded as Munster go all out for their first win over Leinster in seven games.

Leinster:

15. Jordan Larmour
14. Dave Kearney
13. Garry Ringrose (captain)
12. Rory O’Loughlin
11. James Lowe
10. Harry Byrne
9. Hugh O’Sullivan

1. Ed Byrne
2. Dan Sheehan
3. Andrew Porter
4. Ross Molony
5. Ryan Baird
6. Josh Murphy
7. Scott Penny
8. Caelan Doris

Replacements: 

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16. Seán Cronin
17. Peter Dooley
18. Michael Bent
19. James Ryan
20. Scott Fardy
21. Cormac Foley
22. Ciarán Frawley
23. Tommy O’Brien

Munster: 

15. Mike Haley
14. Keith Earls
13. Chris Farrell
12. Damian de Allende
11. Shane Daly
10. Joey Carbery
9. Conor Murray

1. Dave Kilcoyne
2. Niall Scannell
3. Stephen Archer
4. Jean Kleyn
5. Tadhg Beirne
6. Peter O’Mahony (captain)
7. Jack O’Donoghue
8. CJ Stander

Replacements: 

16. Diarmuid Barron
17. Jeremy Loughman
18. Keynan Knox
19. Fineen Wycherley
20. Gavin Coombes
21. Craig Casey
22. Ben Healy
23. Calvin Nash

Referee: Chris Busby [IRFU].

About the author:

Murray Kinsella

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