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Munster men can spring' surprise

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Munster's RG Snyman, a South African international

Munster's RG Snyman, a South African international

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Munster's RG Snyman, a South African international

After almost six months of social distance, it's time for the rugby players of Leinster and Munster to get up close and personal.

Without any pre-season hit-outs, the players will be understandably rusty. Here, Leinster have some advantage. Munster are integrating two new starters and had to cancel training at the back end of last week when an Academy player tested positive.

The Blues brought no new faces in during the summer and, while Jack Conan returns from his lengthy post-World Cup absence, he's familiar with the systems and structures they use.

Both coaches have picked close to their strongest available teams.

Tadhg Furlong picked up a back injury, while Jack O'Donoghue suffered a concussion in training and was unavailable.

Adapting to the new interpretations at the breakdown will be key. The net result in Super Rugby and the English Premiership has been an increase in penalties, but it has also led to an increase in turnovers and that should suit the likes of Peter O'Mahony, Caelan Doris, Josh van der Flier and Chris Cloete in particular.

Even without Furlong, Leinster appear to have the edge in the front-row while the clash of the No 5s may be game-defining.

Already secure in their position as winners of Conference A, Leinster can take a gamble in selecting 21-year-old Ryan Baird to face up to the brilliant RG Snyman.

Munster will look to Snyman to dominate physically, to set the tone and provide a platform for their back-row to dominate.

There are international match-ups across the park. O'Mahony effectively lost his place to Doris for the first Six Nations match and now the youngster is picked in the same position as the Munster captain.

Wither Conor Murray? A lightning rod for criticism during a long pre-lockdown slump in form, he'll hope the rest will give him new life.

With Murray inside him and Damian De Allende outside him, JJ Hanrahan will relish the spotlight. Luke McGrath and Johnny Sexton will run things smoothly for Leinster, while their centres Robbie Henshaw and Garry Ringrose must cope with Munster's bash brothers. De Allende and Chris Farrell look a scary combination, but the Leinster pair are an established international combination used to size.

In the back three, Andrew Conway and James Lowe have a long-standing beef that should run into Irish camp this November while Leinster will test the promising Shane Daly.

The benches will play a big role and Leinster have gone for a combination of six forwards and two backs. That shows they're expecting a tough evening. If they can click, Munster might just spring a surprise.

Verdict: Munster

  • PRO 14 League: Leinster V Munster, Live eir 1/ Prem Sp 1 (KO 7.35)