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Forget the bookies, Munster have the ability to win this ‘semi’

By Aidan Corr
THE odds are against them, but the Munster team chosen by Johaan Graan for this Guinness PRO14 semi-final can cause problems for Leinster. I like the balance, Zeebs at full-back, Conway and Earls are on fire all season and while there is some concern about the midfield, man for man Munster will have no fear of the European Champions.
To be blunt, Munster have to win this one. Over the past two seasons they have promised a lot but failed to deliver when it came to the final straight and there is a lot at stake in this RDS derby. The loss of Rob Henshaw, Rob Kearney and Jonathan Sexton has to be a plus for the Reds and moving Nacewa to the centre is a risky move for Leinster.
The trenches battle between the front fives could determine the outcome but Jerry Flannery will have done his homework. If the Munster back-row of O’Donoghue, O’Mahony and Stander can contain their opposite numbers and get enough clean ball, the southern province has the runners to score tries so we can expect a lot of running rugby.
The return of 1,000 tickets by Munster has certainly been a surprise and one cannot ignore the small attendances at Thomond Park for many of the games this season. The famous brand needs a boost and no better way to inject enthusiasm than to beat their traditional rivals on their own patch in a major competition to set up a re-match with the Scarlets in the Aviva the following Saturday.
Listening to some of the players at the press day last Monday, this Munster squad has only winning on its mind. They are going to give this semi-final their ‘all’ and I believe them. Maybe they will come up short again, but it will not be without one hell of a fight.
My prediction: Munster to win by a narrow margin.
Leinster: Joey Carbery; Jordan Larmour, Garry Ringrose, Isa Nacewa, James Lowe; Ross Byrne, Luke McGrath; Jack McGrath, Se├ín Cronin, Tadhg Furlong; Devin Toner, James Ryan; Rhys Ruddock, Jordi Murphy, Jack Conan. Replacements, James Tracy, Cian Healy, Andrew Porter, Scott Fardy, Max Deegan, Nick McCarthy, Rory O’Loughlin, Barry Daly.
Munster: Simon Zebo; Andrew Conway, Sammy Arnold, Rory Scannell, Keith Earls; JJ Hanrahan, Conor Murray; James Cronin, Rhys Marshall, John Ryan; Jean Kleyn, Billy Holland; Peter O’Mahony, Jack O’Donoghue, CJ Stander. Replacements: Niall Scannell, Dave Kilcoyne, Ciaran Parker, Gerbrandt Grobler, Robin Copeland, Duncan Williams, Ian Keatley, Darren Sweetnam.
Referee: Stuart Berry (SARU)

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