Saturday, 6 October 2018

October Spooktacular at the Aviva

October. The month of the witching hour, ghouls, and the biggest Thriller since 1983: Leinster V Munster. 

Every year the Aviva stands like a bubbling cauldron, releasing magical experiences for all who are immersed inside. Since 2010 the Aviva has played host with attendances averaging over 46,000, a prestigious number for an inter-pro, one of which rivals that of a test game.
With numbers aside, the anticipation and rivalry of the annual clash seems to have simmered in recent years, so what has changed?

Not the competitiveness for starters. The game itself will hopefully bring a flurry of tries and tribulations, the annual meeting has been dominated by Leinster in the last few seasons but with Munster devouring Ulster at home last week, it would be prudent to think that this year would be in Leinster's favour. 

Unfortunately the crowd-pleaser that most wanted to see will not be happening. With Sexton a no-show this evening, the much sought after dual with Carbery will have to be postponed for another occasion. European rugby fixtures commence in less than a week and the priority to rest certain players has become paramount. The iconic picture of Sexton aggressively shouting in Ronan O' Gara's face has now been eclipsed by the dream of European glory. Leinster have decided to change 11 players from their win over Connacht, resting players such as Furlong, Larmour and Ringrose, something that would have been unheard of back in 2009 for this particular fixture with Munster.

Leinster veteran Rob Kearney hits a landmark tonight with his 200th cap for his province, with Luke McGrath on the bench hopefully earning his centennial.  
 A strong Munster side are locked and loaded with Stander and Beirne starting and O' Mahoney at the helm. The try-scoring machine Dan Goggin who put two past a deflated Ulster starts also, a dangerous man to have on the field, no doubt Leinster will be watching their backs. 

With four wins out of five for Leinster and three out of five for Munster so far this season in the Pro14, the odds seem to be in Leinster's favour but no matter how civil the relationship between both provinces has become, the rivalry for bragging rights will always come ahead of the game, Munster are due a win and Leinster know this, without a doubt there will be fireworks aplenty tonight.

LEINSTER: Rob Kearney; Fergus McFadden, Rory O’Loughlin, Robbie Henshaw, James Lowe; Ross Byrne, Jamison Gibson-Park; Jack McGrath, James Tracy, Michael Bent; Devin Toner, James Ryan, Rhys Ruddock (C), Dan Leavy, Seán O’Brien.

Replacements: Seán Cronin, Cian Healy, Andrew Porter, Mick Kearney, Josh van der Flier, Luke McGrath, Noel Reid, Dave Kearney.
MUNSTER: Andrew Conway; Darren Sweetnam, Sammy Arnold, Dan Goggin, Keith Earls; Joey Carbery, Alby Mathewson; Dave Kilcoyne, Niall Scannell, Stephen Archer; Jean Kleyn, Tadhg Beirne; Peter O’Mahony (C), Tommy O’Donnell, CJ Stander.
Replacements: Kevin O’Byrne, James Cronin, Ciaran Parker, Billy Holland, Chris Cloete, Duncan Williams, JJ Hanrahan, Rory Scannell.
Referee: Ben Whitehouse (WRU).

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