Munster boss Johann Van Graan has made several changes to his side ahead of their crucial United Rugby Championship clash against Leinster in Dublin (7:15pm).
Thomas Ahern, Andrew Conway, Dan Goggin and John Ryan are all drafted into the team, with Simon Zebo, Damien De Allende, Stephen Archer and Peter O’Mahony dropping out of the side.
De Allende, Zebo and O’Mahony all join Tadgh Beirne, Dave Kilcoyne and RG Snyman on the sidelines, depriving Van Graan of 278 caps worth of international experience ahead of a must-win game at Aviva Stadium.
Conway’s return comes as a much needed boost for the province, with the Irish international recovering from a knee injury to make his first appearance since January.
For Munster the permutations are simple: a win and the province are guaranteed to wrap up a home quarter-final and in all likelihood a home semi-final. However, should Munster lose they could fall to as low as sixth in the table and would likely face a trip to South Africa for the quarter-finals.
Just three points separates Munster in second to the Bulls in sixth, and a loss could see Munster fall behind the Stormers, Sharks or Ulster and the Bulls. The Stormers meet the Scarlets in Llanelli and the Bulls face Ospreys in Swansea, while Ulster host the Sharks in a crucial clash at Kingspan Stadium on Friday night.
As for Leinster, the situation is more straightforward. The hosts are already guaranteed top spot and a home quarter-final. As a result, Leo Cullen has opted to rest several key contributors ahead of next weekend’s Champions Cup final against La Rochelle.
Aside from Ciaran Frawley, Cian Healy and Joe McCarthy, Cullen has opted for caution and has changed his entire squad following last weekend’s 40-17 win over Toulouse. However, the team still remarkably contains 10 Irish internationals, including the returning Ryan Baird and Jordan Larmour.
Larmour will be playing his first match since returning from a hip flexor injury in March, while Baird hasn’t featured for the province since February after suffering a back injury with Ireland ahead of the Six Nations.
Despite the wholesale changes for Leinster, Cullen will be hopeful of continuing his record against Munster. Since taking over at Leinster ahead of the 2015-16 season, Cullen has lost just three matches against Munster, and has won seven of the last eight against Van Graan’s team.
Cullen’s overall record against Munster stands at an insanely impressive 14-3, and will be looking to do the double over Munster for the third time since the 2017-18 season. Look for Leinster to try to make it 15-3 under Cullen this weekend.