Wednesday 16 January 2019

Leinster must thrive without the firepower of Tullow Tank

Leinster v Munster (Aviva, Tomorrow, Live TG4/SSArena, K02.0 )

Leinster out-half Jonathan Sexton
Leinster out-half Jonathan Sexton

Leinster will have to undo Munster without Seán O'Brien.

The British & Irish Lion Test starter sat out training earlier in the week and has not been able to fully recover from a minor injury to take his place in the back-row.

The Tullow Tank, stationed at number eight against Edinburgh last week, was due to return to the flank.

Now, it would seem Leo Cullen's best option would be to team Rhys Ruddock, Josh van der Flier and Jack Conan together in the breakaway unit.

Presuming Robbie Henshaw hits all his markers, the Ireland centre should man the inside centre berth in between Jonathan Sexton and Rory O'Loughlin.

This will be a step-up for the latter, although Munster have lost Jaco Taute for the foreseeable future.

There has been a late rush for tickets to the inter-provincial derby with 2,500 sold from Monday to Wednesday to take the current crowd up to 44,500.

The fact Leo Cullen and Rassie Erasmus are almost guaranteed to pick their best available men should lead to another surge when the teams are announced at lunchtime today.


There is an uncanny similarity between the start of both provinces to the season, both occupying second in their respective conferences on the same number of points (19).

Leinster have won their last four in a row at the national stadium between the PRO14 and Champions Cup.

Munster have only a single victory, back in 2014, to show from their last ten visits to the Aviva, including the Champions Cup semi-final defeat to Saracens last season.

This is not exactly a happy hunting ground for them.

Leinster will have to get into their stride quickly or this could turn ugly in a hurry.

The lineout will have to be way better than it was against Edinburgh and the mistakes will have to be cut down.


What does it say about Jonathan Sexton that the out-half looked the sharpest operator by a distance on his first hit-out of the season?

What does it say about everyone else that they didn't live up to his standards?

Munster will set out to disrupt Leinster's flow and deny them the ball.

The sweep of their attack has been impressive for the speed at which they reload their players into position.

This is where Conor Murray comes into the picture as a man who has made a habit out of making the right decision.

He needs the quick ball from his forwards, the unit depowered by the loss of Jean Kleyn, not for the first time, to injury.

Their hooker, Niall Scannell, is beginning to make inroads into the gap across to Ireland captain Rory Best.

Tight-head John Ryan is another one on the radar of Ireland head coach Joe Schmidt and he has shown signs of further improvement ahead of an interesting tussle with Jack McGrath.

These are the micro battles throughout that could swing the outcome in tomorrow's contest.

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