By Tadhg O’Sullivan
Peter O’ Mahony returns for Munster and Robbie Henshaw will make his Leinster debut as the second interpro game of the weekend takes place
Connacht and Ulster produced the game of the season thus far on Friday night in their interpro game and we will be looking for more of the same from Leinster and Munster.
Leinster make a total of 11 changes from the team that scraped past Cardiff blues last week. Rob Kearney returns from a knee injury to take his place at full back with Isa Nacewa and Rory O’Loughlin either side of him on the two wings.
Garry Ringrose returns to the number 13 slot having missed the trip to Cardiff. Luke McGrath returns to the starting XV with Johnny Sexton outside him after his Man of the Match performance last weekend.
The front row is all change with Irish Internationals Cian Healy, Sean Cronin and Tadhg Furlong coming in. Elsewhere in the pack Devin Toner is partnered by former Munster man Ian Nagle.
On form Rhys Ruddock starts at blind side with Jordi Murphy at open side and finally Jamie Heaslip completes the line up with what will be his 221st match in a Leinster shirt.
O’ Mahony is one of five changes for Munster for this interpro game. Three of which are in the forwards with Niall Scannell and John Ryan returning to the front row.
There are also two positional changers in the pack as Donnacha Ryan moves to No 4 where he will be partnered by Billy Holland.
Rory Scannell will partner Keith Earls in the centre for the first time this season after recovering from a neck injury sustained against Cardiff. The final change sees Ronan O’ Mahony come in on the left wing.
A lot has been made this week of how diluted this interpro fixture has been in recent years. Not since the glory days of last decade where both had prolonged dominance in Europe has there been any real fire in this fixture.
This has been the prevailing opinion and interestingly enough this week Gordon D’Arcy in his piece for the Irish Times even called for more violence in the fixture.
Violence may seem extreme but after further thought, many of the most famous moments from these fixtures are those kinds of incidents: Sexton screaming in O’ Gara’s face, O’ Connell kicking Dave Kearney and Alan Quinlan eye gouging Leo Cullen are all moments that we remember and associate with the derby.
Now nobody is calling for this type of play and no one is suggesting that players have not been giving it their all in previous years but the fact that the biggest game in the PRO12 calendar in the last few years has been designated, as one where players can be rested is ridiculous.
No other major sport in the world would take their most valued fixture and turn it into a game that takes less precedent to a national team training session, which is what the IRFU have let happen.
Thankfully both teams have named very strong sides and with over 40,000 tickets already sold and an absolute cracker between Connacht and Ulster last night gives us hope that we could be in for a classic that will see us reminisce of the good old days.
Both provinces have enjoyed good starts to the year and are looking much more formidable compared to the last few disappointing seasons.
Erasmus is a serious coop for Munster and the fact he brings a South African style of play very similar to what Munster played in their glory days under Kidney seems to have rendered immediate results.
That being said I’m going to go for a Leinster win. I think the battle up front could have a huge impact on the match especially in the back row where Schmidt will defiantly be watching closely.
Both teams stack up pretty evenly in the forwards but I think the talent and flair Leinster have in their back line, as well as a raucous home atmosphere will see them over the line.
You can catch the interpro game between Munster and Leinster on TG4 and Sky Sports. The game kicks off at 2:05pm.