Culture Clash

Pause and engage: Can Leinster make it a double or will it be Munster's day again?

As Leinster and Munster prepare to clash for the Magners League title, two fans from each side of the divide tog off. We throw in the ball on a debate.

AS MUNSTER PREPARE to host Leinster in the Magners League decider at Thomond Park tomorrow night, we asked for the perspective from each supporters’ camp. How do you think it’ll go?

The Blue Corner

However satisfying it was for Leinster to humiliate their arch-rivals Munster at Croke Park in the Heineken Cup semi-final of 2009, we were reminded we had won no major silverware yet.

However satisfying it was for us to lift the treasured trophy at Murrayfield having edged out the Leicester Tigers a few weeks later, we were reminded we still only had the one trophy while Munster had two.

And however satisfying it was for us to storm back from a massive first-half deficit to take our second Heineken Cup in spectacular style in Cardiff last weekend, we were reminded that Munster had done it first and nothing could change that.

So…where’s the best place to settle the argument once and for all?  On the pitch, I say, especially when there’s also a trophy up for grabs.

The Magners League’s formbook may heavily favour Munster going into this weekend, but its history book doesn’t.  I seem to recall this time last year Leinster kicking off at the RDS against the Ospreys under the assumption that their record from over the season, particularly at home, would see them lifting the trophy come full-time.

Besides, if it’s real form you want to talk about, surely Joe Schmidt must get allowances for the fact that this is his first-ever head coaching role at this level?  And when you remove Leinster’s shaky September results from the equation, they have 21 wins in all competitions, same as Munster for that period.

I think it will take more than Munster’s established old guard of your O’Garas and your O’Connells to get it done.  Much like Jonny Sexton at Croke Park that day, it will more than likely take a big-match performance from a member of their next generation like James Coughlan, Danny Barnes or Felix Jones.

So if they do somehow manage to come out on top tomorrow against the reigning European champions who as well as their half-time guru at out half also have the European Player of the Year in their back row, you’ll know they’ll have earned it.

I can’t wait to watch them try. Pun fully intended.

HarpinOnRugby writes about Leinster here

The Red Corner

This is the Magners League Final, not a homecoming for the Heineken Cup.

To look at this match on paper alone you would have to fancy Munster, in reality this game is going to be tight affair. Munster who had a record-haul of 83 points from the league campaign, the best defence in the league, the best attack in the league, lining out against the Heineken Cup heroes, Leinster.

Munster have only lost three games in the Magners League all season, have won all their home games, yet the bitter taste of being knocked out at the pool stages of the Heineken Cup is what this season will be remembered for by most.

Leinster are riding the crest of a wave after the second-half heroics in Cardiff last weekend. Munster need to watch that first half and take note of the pace at which Northampton played, starving Leinster of possession. Leinster’s big disadvantage is that last Saturday would have taken a lot out of them. Munster need to capitalize on this in the second half when Leinster could struggle.

There’s big match-ups all over the park, yet again its the match-up between ROG and ‘golden boy’ Jonny Sexton that will take most of the attention. But for me the real head-to-heads  are going to be in the front and back rows. Can the Munster scrum put Leinster under the same pressure that Saints did last weekend?

This is a golden opportunity for some of the fringe-players in the Ireland squad to step up and claim a spot for the World Cup in September, players like Felix Jones and Conor Murray have a golden opportunity to impress Declan Kidney, who will watch most of this game through the cracks in his fingers no doubt!

If the forecast is correct (wet) the game will probably suit ROG kicking for the corners, if it’s dry, Sexton’s running game could hurt us.

I reckon, if Munster can stay in touch with Leinster over 60mins I can see them winning by a score once all the West-Coast-Cooler celebrations from last weekend catch up with the Leinster boys!

Conor Buckley writes about rugby at 99call

Who do you think will come out on top tomorrow night? | Join us before kick-off for our Magners League minute-by-minute

Munster and Leinster name sides for showdown