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Munster hoping to end RDS drought

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Leinster prop Ed Byrne knows Munster will put up a tough fight

Leinster prop Ed Byrne knows Munster will put up a tough fight

Leinster prop Ed Byrne knows Munster will put up a tough fight

Munster are back at the RDS to fulfil a fixture that must feel like a punishment ritual at this stage. Surely tonight is the night they change the record after an unprecedented run of six defeats on the trot.

Even Leinster’s decision to rest Cian Healy, Rónan Kelleher, James Tracy, Tadhg Furlong, Devin Toner, Rhys Ruddock, Josh van der Flier, Jack Conan, Luke McGrath, Ross Byrne, Robbie Henshaw and Hugo Keenan while dealing with the absence of Jamison Gibson-Park, Johnny Sexton, Will Connors and a few others can’t persuade the bookies to offer anything less than a five-point spread in the home side’s favour.

If this rivalry has been unbalanced to the extent where a close-to-full-strength Munster team can’t land a blow on their neighbours then Irish rugby has problems.

Both teams are out to win this Rainbow Cup and will know that slipping up tonight will give them a mountain to climb.

For Johann van Graan and the visiting side, there is no tomorrow. Leinster have La Rochelle in next Sunday’s Heineken Champions Cup semi-final.

Cullen is able to recall Garry Ringrose to captain the side, Caelan Doris is at No.8 after his three-month hiatus due to concussion and James Ryan is on the bench.

Munster, however, have the experience and one would expect them to be able to control this match.

That starts up front where the tight five must surely be smarting after the beating they took on their last visit to Ballsbridge. Their back-row of Peter O’Mahony, Jack O’Donoghue and CJ Stander must be dominant.

Munster’s discipline must be top notch, their set-piece on point, their accuracy with ball in hand at the highest level.

They’ve won just two of the last 15 derbies and haven’t beaten Leinster away since October 2014.

Munster have been close in four of the last five games, but when it mattered most they came up well short.

Leinster prop Ed Byrne believes the home side are not short of motivation, though.

“Having Munster in the first round of any competition is always going to be a big one and with six rounds we need to focus on winning every one of them,” he said. “We want to build momentum into the week after without setting our sights on that right at the minute, but people know that if they go well here it’s putting their hand up.

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“Individually and collectively we need to make sure that we get everything right and that comes down to our preparation. You get your preparation right and hopefully then we’ll be building momentum into the weekend and further on.

“We know how dangerous they are and how good 1-15 but even their backline in particular, they’ve some wonderful athletes there.

“We know they can create something from nothing and that’s the focus this week.”

Is this the day that Munster finally get one over on their rivals? If they do, they could potentially clear the way for a route to a trophy without having to travel to Dublin again.

At this stage, even the Rainbow Cup would do for a club starved of success and that desperation must surely feed into tonight’s performance.

They’d dearly love to have RG Snyman on board, but all of their other first-team players are available and rested. They’ve no game for two weeks after this and Warren Gatland’s Lions forwards coach Robin McBryde will be paying close attention from the sidelines.

If they can’t beat Leinster tonight, then when will the victory come?

For the fifth time since rugby’s lockdown ended, they go in search of that elusive derby win.

Tonight, they must demonstrate that they’ve learned from their mistakes.

Verdict: Munster


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