The big games just keep on coming. After last weekend’s breathless Heineken Cup final Leinster switch the focus to Thomand Park and Munster as they clash in the Magners League Grand Final on Saturday evening kick off 5.05pm.
The game will not just be about silverware. For Munster it is the chance to round off a bitterly disappointing season by their immeasurably high standards and face into the close season with renewed optimism.
Leinster on the other hand will be looking to do what only three teams have done before them and complete a domestic and European double and complete a terrific campaign that has seen them become the dominant rugby team in Europe.
On a larger scale there will also be a number of players looking to cement their place in Declan Kidney’s World Cup plans while some players will be trying to crash the party and bag a squad place for themselves.
The clash on Saturday will be the first meeting between the two sides since their epic game in Thomand a month ago. That day Munster won thanks to a last minute penalty from Ronan O ‘Gara to give Munster a 24-23 win. If Munster can replicate the way they played in that second half in this encounter then Leinster will be in trouble.
That night Munster rolled back the years. They took the game to Leinster up front and attacked them with all the gusto of the old Munster. If the Munster front five can gain an advantage over the Leinster pack then they will go some way to giving Munster a foot hold in the game.
They will also need Ronan O’Gara to be at his best on Saturday. In the last game in Thomand O’Gara played like a man possessed. From the stands it looked like O’Gara knew Munster couldn’t afford to lose the game. He led Munster that night and will have to do the same while at the same time trying to limit the impact that Jonny Sexton has on the game.
O’Gara could well be Munster’s key player on Saturday. Aside from the first half meltdown in Cardiff the Leinster defence rarely have their defensive walls breached. The hopes of Munster not for the first time may rely on the boot of O’Gara.
For Leinster there will be no danger that they will not be up for their trip to Thomand. Any ideas of summer holidays will be parked for at least 80 minutes as they look to round off their golden campaign.
They will also be out for revenge after that defeat in Thomand. More than loosing to Munster it will be the way that Leinster lost that will grate with them. In the first half they blew Munster away and at half time they looked home for all money. Then they did a Northampton. They imploded.
Munster began to chip away at Leinster and Leinster fell back and were powerless to halt the Munster machine. Like Munster, if Leinster play the way we know they can then they should win. The scrum will have to be a lot better than it was in the first half against Northampton. Greg Feek has done an excellent job this season in making the Leinster scrum a weapon.
If the scrum will be evenly matched then Leinster must surely have the advantage in the backrow and backs. We will soon run of superlatives for the likes of Jamie Heaslip, Sean O’Brien and co. In that second half they were all forces of nature and the confidence that they garnered from winning the Heineken Cup will stand to them in the pressure cooker atmosphere of Thomand Park.
Recent form doesn’t matter a jot in these types of games. They are one offs and that is what Saturday will be like. On paper and on the pitch Leinster are, man for man, the better team. Munster on their day can beat Leinster but nine times out of ten, at the moment, Leinster have Munster’s number.
You feel that whichever team dominates up front will be the position to dominate the game. Mike Ross and co will have learned from their first half howler in Cardiff and will be out to prove a point.
If O’Gara can get Munster working then it could get interesting, but with Jonny Sexton coming off the best game of his professional career and him controlling Leinster he can lead them to an historic Heineken Cup and Magners League double this Saturday. It will be a game to savour.