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Dublin: 12°C Saturday 8 May 2021
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Leinster's O'Connor says Ireland competition keeps Munster rivalry alive

The Australian head coach is looking forward to Ben Teo’s arrival from rugby league next week.

CJ Stander wraps up Jamie Heaslip at the Aviva last season.
CJ Stander wraps up Jamie Heaslip at the Aviva last season.
Image: James Crombie/INPHO

MATT O’CONNOR SAYS Leinster have not read too much into Munster’s home defeat to the Ospreys last weekend, as they prepare for a derby game that the Australian insists is still of major importance to the players.

There has been an inescapable feeling this week that some of the bite is gone from this fixture, certainly when compared to the relative fervour of previous seasons.

An earlier-than-usual date and both team’s inconsistent form so far in this campaign are mitigating factors, but O’Connor underlines his belief that the Leinster v Munster derby is still one of the biggest games of the year.

“It’s a very long tradition. The rivalry that’s gone on between the two provinces is what drives the environment. It’s bragging rights and it’s the bigger picture with selection for Ireland.

All those things that go with it add to the special occasion that will be Saturday night. To have a near-full stadium for Leinster and Munster to play in is a tremendous honour and the guys are really excited about it.
“The intensity post-Friday [the win over the Cardiff Blues] has gone up dramatically and as a lead-in to Europe, I think it’s perfectly timed to see where both teams are. I think you couldn’t ask for a better opportunity in front of a full house against Munster.”

Munster approach this encounter on the back of their disappointing 19-14 loss to the Ospreys in Thomond Park, but O’Connor believes that result was more related to the Welsh region’s quality than Anthony Foley’s side’s shortcomings.

Leinster head coach Matt O'Connor

“I think there was very, very little in the game. I think the Ospreys played very well and I think they’ve got an added belief because they’ve got some very good victories in Ireland against all the provinces.

“The Ospreys don’t have a fear factor coming to Ireland and with Dan Biggar there, Alun-Wyn Jones and the class they’ve got in their side, it was a really good performance from the Ospreys. We don’t read too much into that.

“We’re just focused on what we need to do and make sure that we put out a quality 80 minutes, which has probably eluded is so far this season.”

Te’o arrival

On the personnel front, O’Connor was pleased with Kane Douglas’ debut against Cardiff last weekend and says a Leinster v Munster derby is not something the Wallaby is “going to shy away from.”

He has also been impressed by the 21-year-old Byrne twins in recent times, with Bryan having now played three times off the bench and Ed making his first senior appearance for the province last Friday.

Meanwhile, O’Connor had mixed feelings about the superb performance of Leinster-bound centre Ben Te’o for the South Sydney Rabbitohs in his team’s NRL semi-final win over the Roosters, given that it delays the 27-year-old’s arrival in Ireland.

[It was] quite exciting that he didn’t get broken, not overly exciting that they won!” joked O’Connor.

“From that end, it’s exactly what it says on the tin. He will give us a ball-carrying physicality dimension that we haven’t had for a while. From that end, we’re pretty keen to get him in the environment ASAP.

“He’ll be here at some stage next week and we can plan out his integration rugby-wise from there.”

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About the author:

Murray Kinsella

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