Here is my pre match report and score prediction:
With a small tingle in my stomach and a little sigh of relief, I feel unusually confident about the Leinster v Munster game tomorrow. This feeling was initially provoked by looking through the starting 15 selections for both teams.
- Leinster team – http://www.leinsterrugby.ie/news/12635.php#.VC6O3fldUtw
- Munster team – http://www.munsterrugby.ie/rugby/19172.php
Firstly, lets start with Munster. Judging by Munster’s selections, they have perfectly balanced an experienced starting 15 with a powerful and skillful bench. This leads me to believe that Munster may opt to keep Leinster out of their 22 for vast periods of the match as opposed to focusing on attacking Leinster’s battle hardened forwards. What Munster will do in the second half is bring on all of their power and talent from the bench to focus more on an attacking game in the hope of catching Leinster off guard. Afterall, Munster’s bench is superior to Leinster’s this week.
Where the match can be won for Munster:
- Attitude – Munster may feel more confident that they should be based on Leinster’s overall form this season. A similar Leinster team went to Connacht only 2 weeks ago and got thought a serious lesson on how a never give up, never say die attitude can bring down the biggest opponents against all odds. Munster are aware that they don’t have as skilful a squad as Leinster so they might draw some inspiration from the Connacht v Leinster game.
- Munster’s form – Munster have lost both of their home games this season and haven’t produced very convincing performances away from Thomond Park. The majority of supporters have not turned up for games and the overall feeling from the fans is dread. With the European Cup looming this month, Munster need to produce a major performance worthy of bringing some hope back to themselves and their supporters. And what more opportunity to raise hopes, silence critics and find their form other than beating the Pro12 champions on their home patch? Munster will be very aware that a win in the Aviva will kick start their campaign and will give them the belief they need going into the European cup. It’s a major motivation
- The bench – Munster’s bench hasn’t looked better all season. They have the balance needed to take on Leinster in the final 20/25 mins of the match. If Leinster allow Munster to come alive at that point, Munster will capitalise and could clinch the game.
Now, where does all that leave Leinster? Leinster’s season kick started 60 minutes into their first game of the season away to Glasgow. Belief was shown throughout the team after going down 19,6 at half time but then managing to lead the game 19,20 until unfortunately giving away a penalty in front of the posts at the death of the match. Although we lost this game, it showed how much the team wanted to win and how hard they were willing to play to scrape their way back into the game. The following week, Leinster annihilated Scarlets. The following week, Leinster got suffocated by Connacht passion. Last week, Leinster made easy work of a strong Cardiff Blues team (although we let in two soft tries which flattered Cardiff’s final score, beating them by 14 points). So two losses overall, but two bonus point victories!
If you take all of this into account going into tomorrow’s game, Leinster have actually been showing great form overall, perhaps somewhat under the radar, but great form none the less. We’ve scored 12 tries in four matches, and missed one penalty in those 4 games. Our fowards have been reported as the most ferocious in the Pro12 and so has our scrum. Leinster have a lot more quality performances to draw on going into this match and it should create more confidence than their opponents.
I think Leinster will attack Munster hard this weekend and try to turn the ball over and get penalties as early as possible. Racking up points early will be crucial because once the bench is used, the skill level may drop slightly due to the lack of experience available.
Where the game can be won for Leinster:
- Keeping up the pressure -Munster fell apart in almost every area of their match against Ospreys last week. This was caused primarily by Ospreys pressure from very early in the match. Their line speed and relentless attack caused Munster to panic when they had the ball and make mistakes which their opponents capitalised on each time. Munster were at home and allowed this happen, which as you know is very unusual for the Red Army. Leinster have the same ability to get in Munsters faces and cause havoc to their game plans as we’ve seen them do to Glasgow, Scarlets and Cardiff already.
- Scrum – Leinster’s scrum has been almost perfect this season, a big percentage of our penalties have been obtained from either winning our own scrums or demolishing the opponents’. This could be the difference in getting the upper hand on Munster.
- Home advantage – Leinster have not been beaten at home by Munster since 2008. We have played Munster 13 times at home since then and have won all 13 games. The statistic doesn’t really prove much on the day but what it will do is instil confidence in the Leinster camp and potentially increase pressure and doubt in Munster’s. Confidence is key and in front of a packed Aviva, it will prove deadly.
In conclusion, Leinster will go into this game favourites and rightly so. Munster haven’t found momentum yet, unlike Connacht who had put out two heroic performances in the previous weeks and deserved their win against us. Munster will need massive improvements to every part of their game in order to triumph tomorrow but I think this match has come too quickly for them to implement anything to seriously worry Leinster. Leinster on the other hand will need to play a strong 80 minutes and fight Munster up front and not give them even a whif of respite.
Can Munster win the game? Yes. Will Munster win the game? No.
Prediction: Leinster 23, Munster 15.