It’s the Pro14 Semi-Final in the Aviva Stadium between Leinster and Munster with the Limerick men missing a lot of players.
In their quest for three league titles in a row, Leinster are the favourites heading into this one. Comfortably topping Conference A, Leinster flexed the depth of their squad against Ulster on Saturday. Overcoming a second-half comeback, the holders ran out 28-10 winners to keep a 100% record since the restart.
Meanwhile, Munster earned the chance to rectify their two-point loss to Leo Cullen’s side a week ago. Needing just a point against Connacht, they coasted to second place in Conference B with a 49-12 win.
Leinster the ones the beat
If last week’s Leinster v Munster game between these two is anything to go by, Friday’s game is worthy of the big stage. It is undoubtedly Leinster who will be expected to advance, but there is optimism about Johann van Graan’s chances. The South African has given his men as good a chance as any to challenge for their first title since 2011.
He admits that “You’ll have to be at your best to beat Leinster away” and recent performances suggest his players just might be approaching their best. Earls and Conway are flying on the wings. De Allende is growing in stature beside Chris Farrell in the center. At 10, Hanrahan’s return to form overshadows Carbery’s injury.
Leinster’s depth of choices is impressive though. Their league form ensures they are still the team to beat. Cullen took advantage of Leinster’s security at the top of the table to rotate his squad against Ulster. Kearney, Byrne and Gibson-Park showed us their experience as they managed the game throughout. Ensuring they played the game in the right areas of the pitch, Byrne kept the points coming whenever opportunity allowed.
Munster have fallen at this hurdle the last two years and came up short in the 2017 final. However, they have continued to knock on the door and this year will be no different. With a wealth of international experience and big game players, the southerners are no outsiders. Leinster are a different animal in the club game though so don’t be surprised if they continue the quest for three in a row.