This weekend sees the first of the Irish interprovincial derbies take place when Ulster welcome Connacht to the Kingspan Stadium on Friday night before Leinster host Munster at the Aviva Stadium on Saturday afternoon.
Leinster and Munster derbies are always eagerly anticipated affairs with a healthy rivalry existing between both sets of supporters.
Leinster have had joy in this fixture in recent times while Munster usually get the better of their rivals when they welcome them to Thomond Park.
Both sides have a number of similarities after five rounds of the Guinness PRO14 – both teams are in second place in their respective conferences, both sides returned to winning way after suffering losses in Round 4, both have won four games from five and both sides have secured three try-scoring bonus points.
This fixture also allows Leo Cullen’s and Rassie Erasmus’ sides get up to speed for their back-to-back European fixtures which take place over the next two weekends. Leinster host Montpellier before travelling to Scotstoun for a tricky tie with Dave Rennie’s Glasgow Warriors. While Munster face a trip to Castres before hosting Ronan O’Gara’s Racing 92 at Thomond Park.
Although the soundbites during the week from both Cullen and Erasmus have been about this fixture providing the perfect preparation, don’t let that dilute the significance of this match – both sides know the importance of getting one over on their rivals – the team selections certainly point to this.
Cullen has made a number of changes from the side which laboured to victory over Edinburgh on Friday night at the RDS. Joey Carbery remains at fullback with Adam Byrne coming in on the right wing and Barry Daly coming in on the left for his first ever game at the Aviva Stadium. Robbie Henshaw returns from injury to take up the 12 shirt and he partners up with Rory O’Loughlin who is at outside centre. James Tracy comes in at hooker, Josh van der Flier is at openside and Jack Conan comes in at 8.
15. Joey Carbery (26)
14. Adam Byrne (27)
13. Rory O’Loughlin (26)
12. Robbie Henshaw (13)
11. Barry Daly (13)
10. Johnny Sexton (137) CAPTAIN
9. Luke McGrath (78)
1. Jack McGrath (114)
2. James Tracy (46)
3. Tadhg Furlong (68)
4. Devin Toner (201)
5. Scott Fardy (3)
6. Rhys Ruddock (135)
7. Josh van der Flier (50)
8. Jack Conan (55)
16. Seán Cronin (133)
17. Cian Healy (176)
18. Michael Bent (91)
19. Ross Molony (48)
20. Jordi Murphy (89)
21. Jamison Gibson-Park (32)
22. Ross Byrne (28)
23. Fergus McFadden (153)
Munster on the other hand, have shaken up their backline with four personnel changes.
Erasmus makes no changes to the forwards who got the job done against the Blues last week while the backline sees some tweaking. Tyler Bleyendaal and Chris Farrell form the midfield partnership, JJ Hanrahan is at fullback and Keith Earls and Andrew Conway are on the wings.
— Munster Rugby (@Munsterrugby) October 6, 2017
It’s sure to be a cracking affair with kick off set for 2 pm on Saturday afternoon.