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Derby advantage is with Munster, admits Cullen

By Cian Tracey

Leo Cullen believes that Munster will go into this afternoon’s (2pm) mouth-watering clash with an advantage over his Leinster side based on their “continuity” in recent weeks.

That is despite Rassie Erasmus springing a surprise selection in his back-line as the Munster director of rugby included three out-halves in his starting XV.

Cullen insists Leinster’s game-plan will not change based on the left-field section, but he was adamant that their old foes go into the Aviva showdown with an extra edge.

“They probably have the advantage because they’ve probably had more continuity over the last four or five weeks, because they’ve trained together, whereas we’ve had three weeks, reasonably disjointed,” Cullen said.

“What are we looking for this week? It’s the intent. There are going to be very motivated players out there so we just need to make sure we’re focused on our bits.”

Robbie Henshaw will make his first appearance of the season after he required surgery for the pectoral injury he suffered on the Lions tour. Sean O’Brien misses out due to a calf problem picked up last week.

Erasmus has shown faith in Ian Keatley at out-half, with Tyler Bleyendaal switching to inside centre and JJ Hanrahan getting the nod at full-back.

More than 45,000 tickets have been sold for the derby and despite some concerns the rivalry has waned in recent years, Cullen certainly isn’t in agreement.

“There’s definitely a spike in everything that’s going on around the place and traditionally that has served both teams very, very well,” he said.

“There is no replicating it. It doesn’t happen with other fixtures in the league, no disrespect to the other ones. There is just something different about it.”

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