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Sunday 20 October 2019

Munster's season could hang on slaying foes Leinster

READY FOR BATTLE: Munster head coach Johann van Graan. Pic: Sportsfile
READY FOR BATTLE: Munster head coach Johann van Graan. Pic: Sportsfile

There is a sense of Munster looking to lull Leinster to sleep with all the platitudes that have been posted eastwards in the last week.

Leo Cullen's men have been complimented, presented as the standard to which everyone else aspires, nicely shined and placed on a pedestal from which they will be dragged by almost any means necessary this evening.

All the politically correct pronouncements will be put on ice for 80 minutes of intrigue and intensity, the like of which is hard to replicate even in an international environment.

Johann van Graan's men will unleash their version of hell on their near neighbours in what, behind the veil, is boiling up into something close to an uncivil war.

The coach has even tried to bring the supporters into the ring in a clear effort to generate a rabble-rousing atmosphere.

"I think every game is a big game, but this is a special one not only for Irish rugby but for the people of Munster," he said.

"The last time we lost a game in Thomond Park was against Leinster last year in the same fixture."

By putting so much into this build-up Munster risk being left completely deflated should all their effort come up short of the mark.

They need this one more, much more, than Leinster and that will be their fuel.

Rattle

Munster's season could well hang on slaying the Best for the East. For, if not now, when will they be able to rock, rattle and break Leinster's hold over them and on the PRO14 League?

This is an example of what could be for the men from the south as long as they come out on the right side of the battle.

They have almost all of their big guns, except for Chris Farrell and captain Peter O'Mahony, the ultimate honour of leadership predictably passing to CJ Stander.

It will be a big night in the career of Fineen Wycherley, deputising for O'Mahony, and Dan Goggin.

The two men have one thing in common, physicality, and they will attempt to impose themselves early and often in the greedy hunt for the ball and the Blues ball carriers.

In a game of inches, it could come down to the width of the posts Jonathan Sexton and Joey Carbery will direct their kicks towards.

There was a time in Sexton's career when he had to shed the doubts about his ability to come through in those match-winning moments.

Of course, the missed kick against the All Blacks in November 2013 was an unwanted bedfellow for some time.

Much more recently, Carbery has experienced the numbness of missing three kicks against Castres Olympique in the Champions Cup.

The credible follow-up loss to Ulster in Belfast with a second side was good enough for a valuable bonus-point.

For this one, consolation doesn't come into it. It is win or wither for Munster.

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