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Dublin: 16 °C Wednesday 17 July, 2019
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It's Paul O'Connell versus Brian O'Driscoll, 18 months in the making

The Pro12 clash between Munster and Leinster will be the first time the Irish rugby legends will have shared the same pitch for 18 months.

O'Driscoll and O'Connell after the 2009 Heineken Cup semi-final.
O'Driscoll and O'Connell after the 2009 Heineken Cup semi-final.
Image: Julien Behal/PA Wire

PAUL O’CONNELL HAS been handed his fourth consecutive Munster start ahead of the team’s inter-provincial clash at Thomond Park.

Leinster have countered with a blockbuster name of their own, as Brian O’Driscoll returns to the line-up after serving his three-week ban for a stamp on Italy’s Simone Favaro.

O’Connell has been named man-of-the-match in two of the three games he has played in – including the Heineken Cup win over Harlequins – since surgery on a bulging disc in his back in late December. The lock has been named captain for Saturday’s match.

O’Driscoll’s season with Leinster has been stop-start due to an ankle injury, international duty and his suspension. With the Blues in the hunt for Amlin Cup and Pro12 silverware, the centre will be eager to finish his season on a high.

The international teammates last featured together for Ireland in the World Cup loss to Wales, while they last competed as inter-pro rivals on 4 November. On that night, at the Aviva Stadium, Jonathan Sexton won his kicking duel with Ronan O’Gara and Rob Kearney slotted over a drop goal in a 24-19 Leinster win.

Munster are in with a mathematical chance of making the Pro12 playoffs but would need to win their three remaining league games handsomely and hope for implosions from Welsh sides Scarlets and Ospreys.

The Munster team shows four changes from the side that beat Harlequins 18-12 last Sunday, most notably Ian Keatley coming in for Ronan O’Gara at outhalf.

Munster: F Jones; D Hurley, C Laulala, J Downey, S Zebo; I Keatley, C Murray; D Kilcoyne , D Varley, S Archer;  Donncha O’Callaghan, P O’Connell (c); P O’Mahony, T O’Donnell, J Coughlan.

Replacements: M Sherry, J Cronin, BJ Botha, B Holland, Dave O’Callaghan, C Sheridan, JJ Hanrahan, I Dineen.

Despite talk of a weekend comeback at Leinster’s Monday press briefing, Sexton is not in the matchday squad. Ian Madigan will have the kicking duties and will be partnered behind the Leinster scrum by Isaac Boss.

Leinster stated that Fergus McFadden picked up a calf strain during the week while Sexton has been given an extra week ‘to fully recover from his foot injury’. The Top14-bound outhalf may well have played his last Leinster v Munster game.

Leinster: R Kearney; D Kearney, B O’Driscoll, G D’Arcy, I Nacewa; I Madigan, I Boss; C Healy, S Cronin, M Ross; L Cullen (c), Q Roux; S O’Brien, S Jennings, J Heaslip.

Replacements: R Strauss, J McGrath, M Bent, D Toner, K McLaughlin, J Cooney, A Goodman, A Conway.

*TheScore.ie will be liveblogging all the action at Thomond Park from 6pm on Saturday.

‘No doubt about it, Paul O’Connell is going on the Lions Tour’ – Shane Byrne

Munster need to beat Leinster before focusing on Clermont – James Coughlan

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Patrick McCarry

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