Leinster's team selection should not detract from Munster derby

The teams meet in Thomond Park on Monday evening

Leinster's team selection should not detract from Munster derby

Munster’s Tyler Bleyendaal and Rory Scannell with Robbie Henshaw of Leinster Mandatory Credit ©INPHO/James Crombie

The domestic PRO12 fixtures are among the highlights of the Irish festive sporting calendar. On Friday night, Ulster easily overcame Connacht. Next weekend, Leinster welcome Ulster to Dublin, while Munster travel to Galway to face Connacht.

Those three games though, will pale in comparison to the St. Stephen's Day clash between Munster and Leinster. A sold-out Thomond Park will see the league's top two teams battle it out, with a sole spot on the top of the PRO12 tree at stake. Both teams are on 37 points after eight wins from their opening ten games.

In October, the two teams met in the Aviva Stadium, but it is a very different Munster outfit from the one that was comfortably beaten 25-14 in Dublin. That game was the last one that Anthony Foley was on the sidelines for, before his tragic death in Paris. 

Since that loss over two months ago, Munster have remained unbeaten in the league. They have won six out of seven games with their only loss coming last weekend to a late penalty in Welford Road, against Leicester.

While Munster have found their form, Leinster are continuing their strong campaign with three wins in a row. The back-to-back wins against Northampton came after a home win against the Newport Gwent Dragons.

Leo Cullen's preparations for Monday evening's game have raised eyebrows however, in particular given his team selection. The Leinster head coach has named an experimental line-up, with ten changes from the XV that recorded a facile victory over Northampton last weekend.

That line-up has seen his team go into the game as heavy underdogs, with Munster being seen as 11-point favourites. In a derby game, that line looks too high, but Leinster's fledgling stars will have no problem trying to prove the doubters wrong.

Earlier this week, Munster's Donnacha Ryan compared the game to an international trial match. Joe Schmidt will be an avid viewer, with potential Six Nations places being up for grabs too.

The winners will end the day on top of the PRO 12. Leinster may not have brought their full hand to the table, but that should not take away from the spectacle, on what will be an emotional evening in Limerick.