INPHO/Cathal Noonan Camera, action: Paul O'Connell at the Convention Centre, Dublin this week.
Friends Reunited
RaboDirect Pro12 Preview: Leinster vs Munster
It’s back to the bread-and-butter stuff tonight. But Leinster hosting Munster at Lansdowne Rd isn’t a bad way to blow off the World Cup cobwebs.
  • Leinster vs Munster
  • Where: Aviva Stadium
  • When: Friday, 19:30
  • Where to watch: TG4
  • Match odds: Leinster 8/15, Munster 6/4, Draw 20-1

IT’S BACK TO inter-provincial rugby for Ireland’s stars after the glamour of the World Cup in what will be the RaboDirect Pro12′s biggest game of the season so far on Friday.

Internationals Keith Earls, Conor Murray, Ronan O’Gara, Paul O’Connell, Denis Leamy and Donncha O’Callaghan all played in last week’s 18-6 win over Aironi, with O’Gara kicking six penalties at Musgrave Park.  New signings Will Chambers and Danny Barnes also featured as Tony McGahan’s side ended a tw0-game losing run.

McGahan makes just three changes from that starting XV with Liefeimi Mafi coming in for Barnes, Niall Ronan getting the nod at number 7 and Donncha Ryan retaining his place in the side, albeit on the blindside flank in place of Peter O’Mahony.

Leinster, meanwhile, made the trip to Edinburgh and came away from the Scottish capital with a 36-28 victory after a thrilling encounter. The European champions had fly-half Jonathan Sexton to thank  for six penalties, a drop goal and a conversion as the 26-year-old brushed aside what was a difficult World Cup to grab the headlines at Murrayfield.

The Blues put out an extremely experienced side this time around, with a total of 13 internationals starting. Jamie Heaslip, Shane Jennings, Sean O’Brien and Cian Healy all play in a Leinster jersey for the first time since before their international duty in New Zealand.

Last time these sides met back in May, it was Munster who recorded a 19-9 win to save some face after failing to make the knockout stages of the Heineken Cup for the first time in 13 years but, in what must be a good omen for Joe Schmidt, Leinster have won their last nine games in all competitions at the Aviva Stadium.

Munster coach Tony McGahan told reporters in Dublin this week: “I don’t think there are many greater challenges in European rugby than playing the Heineken champions, the number one ranked side in a sell out at the national stadium, a venue they’ve had wonderful success at.

“So what a perfect way to get back into the RaboDirect but also for the upcoming Heineken Cup, it’s a perfect platform to certainly give us a great indication of where we are.

Leinster: R Kearney, I Nacewa, F McFadden, G D’Arcy, L Fitzgerald, J Sexton, I Boss, C Healy, R Strauss, M Ross, L Cullen (c), D Toner, S O’Brien, S Jennings, J Heaslip

Replacements: S Cronin, H van der Merwe, J Hagan, K McLaughlin, R Ruddock, E Reddan, I Madigan, E O’Malley

Munster: J Murphy, D Howlett, W Chambers, L Mafi, K Earls, R O’Gara, C Murray, W du Preez, D Varley, BJ Botha, D O’Callaghan, P O’Connell (c), D Ryan, N Ronan, D Leamy

Replacements: D Fogarty, M Horan, J Hayes, P O’Mahony, J Coughlan, T O’Leary, I Keatley, D Barnes. says: Leinster to win in a close encounter.

What do you think? Let’s have your predictions

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