Tuesday 31 January 2023 Dublin: 8°C
James Crombie/INPHO Kearney shakes hands with Simon Zebo at the Aviva Stadium last season.
# Familiar Foes
Leinster fullback Kearney: 'I expect a very different Munster this week'
The Ireland international believes being written off suits Anthony Foley’s men perfectly.

WHAT’S IT LIKE to play against your best mates in an interprovincial derby, Rob Kearney was asked at a press conference this week.

The fullback thought for a second and smiled as he delivered a correction.

“Best mates? Mates!”

While the build-up to this particular game has been relatively low-key, Kearney insists the desire to outdo Ireland teammates and rivals still strongly exists in both camps ahead of this evening’s clash [KO 18.30].

“Obviously it is the one league fixture of the year that we most look forward to, having Munster in the Aviva,” said the Leinster fullback.

“Close to 40,000 [people] – marketing have done an awesome job to get that many people into the stadium – and coming up before November you’re playing against the bulk of guys you’re going to be competing for a national jersey with.

You have that added incentive as well. The fact that it’s always a hugely physical, competitive game and you enjoy winning those games. That’s why we’ll be massively up for it.”

Leinster enjoy the favourites tag given their record in Dublin against Munster, as well as their slightly stronger form coming into this fixture. Anthony Foley’s side have had dispiriting defeats to Edinburgh and the Ospreys already this season, but Kearney believes talk of a Munster slump actually suits the southern province.

“They’ve been written off a little bit by everyone, haven’t they? Thankfully, we’ve done all of our analysis, we know their capabilities.

Rob Kearney Billy Stickland / INPHO Kearney suffered a dead leg last weekend, but says he's 'good to go' for this evening. Billy Stickland / INPHO / INPHO

“There certainly won’t be any writing off from within the camp. They’re coming up here, they’re taking on the champions in Dublin. It’s perfect for them to try and take a scalp off us when the pressure is off them a little bit.”

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Indeed, Kearney stated his opinion that Munster haven’t been far off a solid start to the season, explaining that a lack of fortune could partly explain their two defeats in Thomond Park.

On top of that, he expects big improvements from Foley’s men at the Aviva.

“I think they’ve been unlucky. Ok, their form probably hasn’t been exactly where they want it to be, but the last kick of the game against Edinburgh and save for that one last pass against the Ospreys last weekend, they’d be up two more wins.

“I think they have been a little bit unlucky with how the results have gone, but I expect a very different Munster this week to the one that we saw in Thomond Park last weekend.”

Leinster: Rob Kearney, Fergus McFadden, Gordon D’Arcy, Ian Madigan, Darragh Fanning; Jimmy Gopperth, Eoin Reddan; Jack McGrath, Sean Cronin, Mike Ross; Devin Toner, Mike McCarthy; Rhys Ruddock, Dominic Ryan, Jamie Heaslip (capt.).

Replacements: Bryan Byrne, Michael Bent, Tadhg Furlong, Kane Douglas, Jack Conan, Isaac Boss, Steve Crosbie, Mick McGrath.

Munster: Felix Jones (capt.); Andrew Conway, Andrew Smith, Denis Hurley, Simon Zebo; Ian Keatley, Conor Murray; James Cronin, Duncan Casey, Stephen Archer; Dave Foley, Paul O’Connell; CJ Stander, Tommy O’Donnell, Robin Copeland.

Replacements: Damien Varley, Dave Kilcoyne, BJ Botha, Billy Holland, Peter O’Mahony, Duncan Williams, JJ Hanrahan, Gerhard van den Heever.

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