Derby season dominated the conversation in Wednesday Night Rugby

Emmet Byrne and Gerry Thornley joined Ger Gilroy in studio

Derby season dominated the conversation in Wednesday Night Rugby

©INPHO/James Crombie

With derby season due to take place this weekend, the Wednesday night rugby panel naturally poured over the domestic fixtures down for decision.

One of the interesting aspects of the conversation centered on the depleted level of intensity in the Munster v Leinster rivalry. Reminiscing on the games from earlier years, Irish Times sports journalist Gerry Thornley said: 

'It use to be the standout fixture in the regular season. It had everything and they won five Heineken cups in a seven year period and I think they won five of the last seven League titles between them as well. It mabye has lost a bit of its lustre but last year's derby suggests that the Musnter v Leinster derby deserves to be full on or punters are gonna stop paying their money.' 

He also stressed that this game still retains a lot of significance and will give the winning team a much needed boost. Munster have lost four games in both competitions while Lesinter have lost four from four.

Retired rugby player Emmet Byrne weighed in by suggesting that there was a time when the outcome of those games use to dictate the rest of the season. 

'Munster and Leinster were maybe a little bit ahead of other teams and it was really a defining game but I don't think it's quite like that anymore. Whoever won those games genreally toook charge of the season. I remember we went into one of those games and you knew there was an intensity there. The build-up was different.'

Leinster's poor run of form has cast a negative light over Leo Cullen. Emmet Byrne noted how this is previosuly unexplored territory for the retired Leinster player.

'Leo is hedging his bets in that there is no perfect scenario. This is unknown territory to him and it's dragged out in front of the nation. Things just aren't clicking. There is also a silver lining so I would try out some of the new guys and blood them in. The real expierence is in the build-up and the young guys need exposure. Things have evolved and guys are really detailed. They're very fine tuned.' 

Presenter Ger Gilroy later pointed out that the Connacht v Ulster game appears to be the more appealing fixture, which is an unusual position to be in.

Emmet Byrne responded by saying that both sides are 'reaching their expectations' while Gerry Thornley said that the positive atmosphere among Ulster followers coupled with their 'expansive' brand of rugby goes some way towards explaining why they are enjoying their progression of late. 

The final segment of the discussion addressed David Nucifora's statements from earlier in the week which outlined the IRFU's plans to prioritise home produced players ahead of foreign imports.

Thornley cautions that the overseas players are essential to the provinces.

'There's a little bit of a mini crisis in the provinces. You need the quality of overseas players and you have to realise that they have helped the provinces to stay competitve in Europe. They also make the Irish players better. None of the provinces can bring in a tight head prop at the moment.'

In giving their predictions for the two games, both guests agreed that they expect Munster and Ulster to come away with wins.