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7 key areas in the Munster v Leinster derby

We take a look at some of the places where tomorrow’s inter-pro could be won and lost.

Paul O'Connell will have an important part to play tomorrow.
Paul O'Connell will have an important part to play tomorrow.
Image: ©INPHO/James Crombie

NOW THAT BOTH teams have been named for tomorrow’s RaboDirect Pro12 clash between Munster and Leinster, we can start speculating as to where the game will be won and lost.

Matt O’Connor has had to plan around the absence of Brian O’Dricoll, with Lote Tuqiri coming into the centre in his place. That blow aside, it’s an excellent starting XV but Munster do appear to have the stronger bench. Ahead of the encounter at Thomond Park, we’ve had a look at seven of the areas that could prove key.

1. Out-half

Numbers 10s are important to any game but in the build-up to this fixture, both coaches had tough decisions to make regarding who would be first-choice. While JJ Hanrahan and Jimmy Gopperth are likely to feature off the bench in the second half, the match-up between Ian Keatley and Ian Madigan will be fascinating. Both players are still on the way to nailing down the out-half slot at their province, and a commanding performance tomorrow would go a long way towards doing that.

imageKeatley starts at 10 for Munster tomorrow night. ©INPHO/Billy Stickland.

2. Getting on Poite’s good side

The Pro12 has turned to Romain Poite to referee this inter-pro derby, and both sides will be keen to get on his good side early on. The Frenchman is well know to favour whichever team dominates the opening exchanges, particularly at the set piece, so Peter O’Mahony and Jamie Heaslip will need to highlight their team’s strengths as soon as possible after kick-off. The hope is that Poite allows an open, flowing game as both sides have shown attacking edge already this season.

3. Scrum time

This area strongly relates to Poite, as he invariably rewards the side who begin well in the scrum. It’s a big test for Munster tight head Stephen Archer, who goes up against one of the world’s best loose heads in Cian Healy. On the other side, Ireland’ most important player Mike Ross will pack down against Dave Kilcoyne, who needs a stand out game to launch his season. Under the new scrum laws, the eight-man shove is more important than ever, and Leinster look to have the slightly beefier pack.

imagePoite’s officiating of the scrum will be important. ©INPHO/Billy Stickland.

4. Impact from the bench

It is hard to understand the ongoing exclusion of CJ Stander from Munster’s starting XV, but Penney will definitely call on the explosive South African for the closing 30 minutes or so. The 23-year-old is part of an exciting bench for Munster, with James Cronin, BJ Botha, Conor Murray and Hanrahan all offering the ability to make telling impacts. For Leinster, a lack of second row cover is a slight worry but Rhys Ruddock and Dominic Ryan could add power late on.

5. Midfield match-up

How Lote Tuqiri performs at outside centre in Brian O’Driscoll’s absence will have a crucial bearing on the result. It’s a huge shame that the legendary Ireland international won’t take to the field at Thomond Park for one last time, but the Australian has the physical attributes to do damage. In opposition, James Downey and Casey Lualala are reunited for Munster after proving to be an effective partnership in the closing stages of last season. They will surely look to target Tuqiri defensively.

imageTuqiri takes over at 13 with Brian O’Driscoll suffering from a calf injury. ©INPHO/Russell Cheyne.

6. Taking chances

Leinster were effective with their possession last weekend against the Cardiff Blues, whereas Munster failed to take several chances to score points against the Dragons. At Thomond Park, the home side will need to register points every time they find themselves deep in Leinster territory, otherwise a fifth consecutive defeat to their rivals is on the cards. 14 tries in their four matches so far this season suggest that Munster will cross the whitewash at some stage tomorrow.

7. Psychological edge

Leinster are getting used to winning in Thomond Park, coming away victorious on the three most recent occasions. Breaking that cycle will be a demanding mental task for Munster. It’s hard to see this game being anything other than closely-fought, so it may come down to the closing minutes and a kick from either side to decide it. Do Munster have the belief to seal the deal if they get into that position? Or have Leinster got the mental edge in knowing they can beat Munster?

Where do you think the Munster v Leinster clash will be won and lost? Will Munster’s strong bench be decisive or will Leinster’s new centre partnership lead them to success? Drop a comment below with your views and predictions…

About the author:

Murray Kinsella

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