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Leinster v Munster: Big guns return for another provincial epic

Eighteen of Ireland’s 30-man World Cup squad are set to start tomorrow’s “Fever in the Aviva” Pro12 showdown.

Image: ©INPHO/Colm O'Neill

FIVE OF LEINSTER’S Rugby World Cup stars return to provincial action tomorrow as Joe Schmidt’s men shape up for a Pro12 clash against old rivals Munster.

Well-rested following their exploits in the Southern Hemisphere, Sean O’Brien, Shane Jennings and Jamie Heaslip all line out in the Leinster back row while Cian Healy returns to his usual spot at loosehead prop.

In midfield, Gordon D’Arcy comes in to partner international team-mate Fergus McFadden, but there is still no place for Brian O’Driscoll who has been given an extra week’s rest as he recovers from a “stinger” injury.

Isa Nacewa slots back in on the wing after sitting out last week’s 36-28 win over Edinburgh while Richardt Strauss starts at hooker.

Meanwhile, Tony McGahan has named made just three changes to his starting XV from the side which scored a 18-6 win at home to Aironi last weekend.

Experienced campaigner Lifeimi Mafi ousts Danny Barnes at inside centre, while Donncha O’Callaghan makes his seasonal bow for the province alongside captain Paul O’Connell in the second row.

O’Callaghan’s inclusion sees Donnacha Ryan shift to the blindside, with Niall Ronan and Denis Leamy filling out the back row at seven and eight.

“I don’t think there are many greater challenges in European rugby than playing the Heineken champions, the number one ranked side in a sell out at the national stadium, a venue they’ve had wonderful success at,” McGahan said.

What a perfect way to get back into the RaboDirect but also for the upcoming Heineken Cup, it’s a perfect platform to certainly give us a great indication of where we are.

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Over 46,000 tickets have been sold for tomorrow night’s game (k.o 8pm), with the remainder still available from the usual outlets.

Leinster: R Kearney; Nacewa, McFadden, D’Arcy, Fitzgerald; Sexton, Boss; Healy, Strauss, Ross; Cullen, Toner; O’Brien, Jennings, Heaslip.

Munster: Murphy; Howlett, Chambers, Mafi, Earls; O’Gara, Murray; du Preez, Varley, Botha; O’Callaghan, O’Connell; Ryan, Ronan, Leamy.

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