Brian Barry gives us five reasons as to why Munster will overcome Leinster at the Aviva this Saturday.
1;. Injuries Have Rocked Leinster
Leinster have suffered a serious psychological blow following the news that 2011 European Player of the Year Sean O’Brien has been sidelined for six months. Add the loss of Cian Healy to the mix, and Leinster’s two most revered forwards are out.
While neither were in line to face Munster at any stage this week, missing two such leaders will have serious repercussions on the Leinster pack.
2. Neutral Ground?
Depite the game being played behind enemy lines from a Munster perspective, is it really a home advantage for the men in blue?
Taken out of their RDS fortress to accommodate an anticipated 40,000, Leinster are as familiar with Lansdowne Road as their southern rivals. The majority of players in question with experience at the Aviva Stadium have it through international duty.
Leinster only played at the IRFU stadium twice last season. Once against Munster in March, the other in a home defeat to Northampton. Anthony Foley’s charges will not fear the atmosphere, and with a big travelling support, home advantage is not likely to play a part.
3. Nail-biter In Store.
Munster v Leinster ties are always tight. In fact, in the last seven ties, only a score has separated the sides in all but one; Leinster’s 30-21 victory in October 2012.
Due to the intense rivalry, this is likely to be another humdinger. The Munster camp will not have a problem of getting up for this game. With bookies rating the men in red as seven points off their old rivals, they will bring the fight, and form will go out the window.
4. Simon Zebo
While many in Limerick and Cork are unhappy about the Leinster-centric Ireland squad selections, the omissions of Simon Zebo has not damaged the 24 year-old’s reputation. He is still widely regarded as one of the finest wingers in Europe. Zebo comes back into the side following last week’s defeat to the Ospreys. The Leinster defence will be on high alert, but when Zebo is in top form, he is un-markable, and can produce a game-changing moment of magic at any stage.
5. Munster Substitutes.
Their bench is littered with both talent and experience, and Anthony Foley has several players to call upon who can raise the tempo of the game if needed. Referee Ian Davies is notoriously picky when it comes to scrum-time, and should Leinster dominate in the area, Damien Varley, Dave Kilcoyne, and BJ Botha are no strangers to scrumming battles.
With the likely wet conditions, this could well be the winning and losing of the match. The return of Peter O’Mahony, if introduced, will give the pack a lift, while JJ Hanrahan offers a genuine alternative to Ian Keatley’s direct style.
Brian Barry, Pundit Arena.