Previewing This Weekend’s PRO14 Inter-Provincial Clash Between Munster & Leinster
Who will walk away with bragging rights?
Both teams come into this competition off the back of home wins. Munster with an improved second half performance made light work of the Cardiff Blues in Thomond while Leinster struggled to overcome a competitive Edinburgh at the RDS.
It is always a game watched closely by the Ireland management and Joe Schmidt will have his eye on a number of players this weekend at the Aviva. One of those will be the forgotten man of Irish rugby, Ian Keatley. Keats stole the show last week in Munster and led his team to victory, giving himself every chance of holding on to the number 10 slot this week. His kicking both out of hand and from the tee was faultless and his overall game management was top class, finding the corners with ease.
Also worth a mention was the return of the prodigal son, JJ Hanrahan. Hotly tipped in his early career to take over Jonny Sexton, Hanrahan’s venture overseas has not been plain sailing and his stock has fallen since he last played on these shores. However, he has not become a bad player and given the opportunity with Munster, he is one who can certainly put himself in the frame for an Ireland call up. His biggest issue is in finding a position which he can make his own. Opportunities at 10 will be few and far between but his versatility is something Schmidt will be a fan of when it comes to continuing to build his squad. Most impressive about Hanrahan was his turn of pace in finishing his try scoring opportunities.
Leinster well and truly struggled to exert any dominance over Edinburgh and their set piece, particularly in the second half, was error strewn throughout. They will be boosted by Jonny Sexton’s display which was well documented on Friday night however, he wasn’t completely without fault. All we expect of Sexton was there. Top class distribution, attacking the line aggressively, immaculate in defence and a perfectly executed kicking game were all evident on Friday night. Where he comes in for criticism though is in his role as captain. There were at least 3 occasions in the first half where he opted for the corner instead of a kick at goal. Crucially, each time yielding no rewards. These choices ultimately kept Edinburgh in the game. Sexton is a brave player and often his decisions are ballsy. If he is to continue as captain, he will need to curb this trait.
The game on Saturday will be one of the closest contests between the two teams for quite some time. It is unusual to see them kicking off so early in the day and it is hard to imagine the atmosphere in the Aviva being as hot as it could be. Munsters record in the Aviva isn’t fantastic and they will have bad memories from last year where they lost heavily to Saracens in the Champions Cup and again to Scarlets in the league final.
However this year Munster look the much more complete side and going in to Saturday, they appear to have the edge over Leinster. It will be a close game and the final result will be no more than 5 points in the difference.