After a month dominated by the European Rugby Champions Cup, the attention of Irish rugby fans turns to the Pro12 with each of the four provinces contesting festive derby clashes.
The inter provincial encounters during the Christmas period are among the most highly anticipated on the calendar, and are always well attended, despite the trying weather conditions.
Indeed, the clash between Munster and Leinster on St. Stephen’s Day comes with added interest as only points difference separates the sides at the top of the table. Although the Reds lost the corresponding fixture at the Aviva Stadium earlier this season, they have since found form and have won seven of their last eight games.
During that time Munster have accounted for the Glasgow Warriors twice, Ulster, Ospreys, the New Zealand Maori, and Leicester Tigers.
Therefore it comes as little surprise to see Rassie Erasmus make only three changes to the side that were narrowly defeated at Welford Road last weekend, where Ronan O’Mahony, Jean Kleyn and James Cronin are handed starts.
Munster fans may also get an opportunity to see Francis Saili make his first start of the season from the bench.
In contrast Leo Cullen has made ten changes to his team, with Cian Healy and James Tracey handed starts in the front row. UCD’s Barry Daly has also been handed a start on the wing, and Rory O’Loughlin comes in to start alongside Robbie Henshaw in midfield.
— Munster Rugby (@Munsterrugby) December 23, 2016
— Leinster Rugby (@leinsterrugby) December 23, 2016
On this week’s edition of the Oval Office Podcast, we speak to Jamie Roberts and look ahead at the festive fixture list.
Alan Drumm, Pundit Arena