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Munster v Leinster: 3 key battles that will decide the bragging rights

Warren Gatland and his coaching crew will be at Thomond Park to witness the interprovincial clash.

Conor Murray and Isa Nacewa tangle at Lansdowne Road.
Conor Murray and Isa Nacewa tangle at Lansdowne Road.
Image: ©INPHO/Dan Sheridan

Dream team v The bash brothers

Gordon D’Arcy and Brian O’Driscoll are reunited yet again in a midfield partnership that many Leinster supporters hope never ends. D’Arcy returns from a spot on the sidelines with a foot injury while O’Driscoll, his midfield partner for more than 160 provincial and international games, has served his three-week stamping ban.

The duo come across a Munster midfield pair that have a combined total of two tries all season. Casey Laulala [2] and James Downey [0] won their places in Munster folklore with some bruising defensive hits against Harlequins last Sunday. The inside centre was committed to the cause while Downey chased Quins fullback Mike Brown around like a bone-hungry dog and sent him to the turf with interest on at least three occasions.

O’Driscoll and D’Arcy will not be in for an easy ride in what is sure to be a feisty battle behind the warring front eights.

Damien Varley v Sean Cronin

Not the prettiest of battles to throw our eyes over but one that will play a crucial role in deciding the victors.

Cronin has been an effective runner in the loose for Leinster all season and has served his side well during injury-hit months. His lineout throwing is not ideal and he has erred in the closing stages of Heineken Cup and Ireland’s Six Nations matches. Declan Kidney never showed Cronin the same faith that Joe Schmidt often does.

Varley, called up to Ireland’s World Cup squad in 2011, has failed to kick on this season and poor form, coupled with injuries, have seen Mike Sherry get the nod for big matches. However, Varley scored a crucial try against Edinburgh in the Heineken Cup pool stages.

He needs to focus on hitting his jumpers and will be pleased to see Paul O’Connell calling the shots at lineout time.

Battle of the benches

Despite the Heineken Cup semi with Clermont just two weeks away, Munster coach Rob Penney has played a strong hand with his starting line-up. The bench is short of game-changers, however, with Cathal Sheridan and Ivan Dineen there to freshen up the backline. JJ Hanrahan’s presence on the bench should provide a spark.

Leinster have Richardt Strauss, Devin Toner and Kevin McLaughlin in reserve. The visitor’s have the slight edge when it comes to their replacements and Andrew Conway will be eager to get onto the field and show supporters on both sides what he can do. Conway, of course, will be a Munster player next season.

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

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About the author:

Patrick McCarry

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