The Leinster squad to face Munster in Friday night’s Magners League clash at Thomond Park (KO: 8.05pm) has been named.
Gordon D’Arcy, Cian Healy and Jamie Heaslip return to the Leinster panel for Friday’s game in Limerick while Scotland lock Nathan Hines is also named in the extended squad which is expected to be reduced on Thursday lunchtime.
Rob Kearney, a try-scorer in the 17-14 victory over Connacht last weekend, is one of 12 Ireland internationals in the squad which also includes the likes of Isa Nacewa, CJ van der Linde and Stan Wright.
In excess of 4,000 Leinster supporters are expected to make the trip down to Thomond Park on Friday.
Leinster squad to face Munster…
FORWARDS: Leo Cullen, John Fogarty, Cian Healy, Jamie Heaslip, Nathan Hines, Bernard Jackman, Shane Jennings, Stephen Keogh, Malcolm O’Kelly, Mike Ross, Rhys Ruddock, Paul Ryan, Devin Toner, CJ van der Linde, Stan Wright
BACKS: Shaun Berne, Andrew Conway, Gordon D’Arcy, Girvan Dempsey, Rob Kearney, Simon Keogh, Fergus McFadden, Isa Nacewa, Paul O’Donohoe, Eoin O’Malley, Eoin Reddan, Jonathan Sexton
REFEREE: Andrew Small (RFU), ASSISTANT REFEREES: Colin Stanley (IRFU), Richard Kerr (IRFU), TMO: Brian Fitzgerald (IRFU)
Speaking ahead of Friday night’s Magners League clash in Thomond Park, Leinster Consultant Coach ALAN GAFFNEY said that the squad will need a marked improvement against an in-form Munster side.
"There’s no doubting that we didn’t reach the standards that we demand of ourselves against Connacht. Credit to them, they played particularly well and having analysed their recent performances, it was probably the best I’ve seen them play over the last few months.
"Even though we scored a good try where (Rob) made a good line break, we didn’t get an awful lot going in terms of our attack so that’s an area that we need to improve upon this week. The players themselves weren’t happy with how things went, so we will take the positives from Saturday’s game and approach this weekend’s challenge positively after welcoming back a few more players into training.
"Munster played some excellent rugby at times in their win over a Glasgow side last weekend that included a significant number of the players who defeated Ireland the previous week. So that result was no mean feat.
"We know how strong Munster are, right across the paddock. The traditions of (them) having a strong pack are well documented, but they also have a real cutting edge in their backline, irrespective of the various combinations that they go with. Be it Tomas O’Leary or Peter Stronger, ROG (Ronan O’Gara) or (Paul) Warwick, Lifeimi Mafi and Jean de Villiers and then with Keith Earls and the rest of their back three in such good form, they will pose a real attacking threat.
"Their wingers work hard off the ball and they have a lot of power and abrasiveness up front. So these are areas that we will need to be vigilant about this week.
"Leinster-Munster games are regarded as some of the biggest games of the season. While there may be a perception that both sides may have one eye on the Heineken Cup quarter finals next week, our main focus is on what happens in Limerick on Friday night. Whenever these two sides go head to head one thing you can guarantee is that neither sets of players will hold back.
"We have great respect for what the supporters give us and to know that there are going to several thousand Leinster supporters travelling down to Munster this weekend is absolutely fantastic. It’s a tough time financially to be a supporter and the players never take that for granted. Maybe we wouldn’t have seen those kind of numbers a few years ago, but the players revel in that kind of commitment because they know that in these tough economic times things aren’t easy and every time they pull on a blue shirt they want to repay that.
"There’s a hardcore following who would follow the team to the ends of the earth, it seems, and that gives the players, coaches and everyone involved in the organisation a massive fillip."