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Leinster and Ruddock eyeing 'special win' at Munster's Thomond fortress

The provincial rivals meet in Limerick on Saturday evening.
Dec 26th 2018, 12:40 PM 13,179 15

LEINSTER FLANKER RHYS Ruddock admits raiding Munster’s Thomond Park citadel is ‘extra special’, as the two provinces prepare to go head-to-head in a heavyweight showdown.

The defending European and Pro14 champions extended their league winning run to nine games with a last-gasp victory over Connacht before Christmas, but will face an even stiffer assignment against their southern rivals on Saturday evening [KO 5.15pm, eir Sport/Premier Sport]. 

Leinster players celebrate Andrew Porter's winning try Leinster celebrate their late win over Connacht. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

Moved from the traditional St Stephen’s Day slot, Saturday’s round 12 inter-pro has been sold out for some time and both sides look set to field their strongest hand, having rotated their resources last weekend. 

Leinster, having trailed Connacht by 17 points at the RDS, pulled off a great escape to extend their lead at the top of Conference B to 16 points, while Munster secured a losing bonus point against Ulster with the last kick of the game in Belfast last Friday. 

“We take huge positives from the fact that we dug in but I think the learnings will be more important now in terms of we knew exactly what they were going to try and do,” Ruddock said of Saturday’s dramatic win over Andy Friend’s side.

“We knew they’d take us on with Bundee Aki and Tom Farrell, trying to get that gain line and then we knew they had that ability to go back on the short side and take us on at the ruck. We’d prepped for that.

“I think we need to learn that teams are going to try and physically impose themselves on us over these next couple of weeks. Let’s make sure we stick to the plan and get the job there really because we gave Connacht a lot of momentum and really hurt ourselves but credit to them, I thought they played really well and tested us.

“We can probably count ourselves lucky. As much as we dug in, we probably got away with one.”

The return of Leinster’s frontline internationals will boost Leo Cullen’s men as they look to continue their strong recent record over Munster, with their last defeat to Johann van Graan’s side coming on St Stephen’s Day in 2016.

Having captained the eastern province last weekend, Ruddock hopes to be involved again this week, although the 28-year-old has built up nearly 200 minutes in the last three games and could be given time off if Josh van der Flier and Jack Conan return to the back row.

“I hope to be involved,” he says. “I don’t really know. I haven’t spoken to anyone yet but I’m feeling good. I’m not what’s going to happen.

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Rhys Ruddock Ruddock is hoping to be involved this week. Source: Oisin Keniry/INPHO

“There’s a lot of competition and a few of the guys got a rest this week so I’m sure they’ll be raring to go as well so we’ll wait and see but obviously, Munster are going to come out all guns blazing having rested a few guys as well.  It will be a big test.”

Ruddock adds: “I haven’t played down there [Limerick] in a good few years, but from my experience it’s a special place to go so. I think everyone would be going in for that one and love to be involved.

“It’s special having your home fans and everyone cheering you on and everything like that but there is something special about going away from home.

“The intensity they bring to the occasion and their fans, it’s a very different experience and I think it’s one that you have to relish as well. 

“I think winning away from home is extra special, especially playing a team like Munster.

“There’s a huge heritage and history of being successful, especially when they play down there so yeah to get a win there is extra special.”

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