A bumper attendance of around 26,000 is expected in Limerick on Saturday but those attending the sold-out Munster versus Leinster Guinness PRO14 match will be feeling very short-changed following Friday’s respective underwhelming team announcements.
Instead of getting to see a festive fixture showcasing the very best players on the circuit in Ireland, the stars of the Irish game will be in short supply.
The two provinces provided 20 of the 23 players chosen by Joe Schmidt for the recent World Cup quarter-final loss to New Zealand, but just three of those players have been included for the very watered-down interprovincial at Thomond Park.
Under new boss Andy Farrell, Ireland held a training camp in Dublin at the start of this week and all his front-line players have now been given the weekend off.
Of the 20 Munster-Leinster players chosen in Schmidt’s 23 for the World Cup elimination match in Yokohama, props Dave Kilcoyne and Andrew Porter – who were on the Ireland bench – are the only ones to have starting roles in Limerick ten weeks later.
(Continue reading below…)
Munster versus Leinster will be streamed live on RugbyPass in some territories
The pair will pack down directly against each other, with Joey Carbery, another Ireland replacement from that humiliation at the hands of the All Blacks, chosen on the Munster bench.
Sean Cronin, who was at the finals in Japan before injury cut short his participation, has been chosen on the Leinster bench.
The season of goodwill didn't apply across the board in Ireland on Monday as new coach Andy Farrell only met with media handpicked by the IRFU rather than accommodating all media
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) December 24, 2019
The resting of so many big names for high profile interprovincial fixtures at this time of the year is a common occurrence in Ireland, but Saturday’s latest selections only further highlights how the IRFU only ever releases its star players for very select PRO14 matches unlike what happens in rival countries.
For instance, relegation-threatened Leicester have included five of their six England World Cup squad contingent for Saturday’s Gallagher Premiership trip to a sold-out Twickenham where they face Harlequins.
In contrast, the teams that will be respectively captained at Thomond Park by Munster’s Billy Holland and Leinster’s Scott Fardy in a league that has no relegation bear little resemblance to what their full-strength XVs could potentially be.
MUNSTER: 15. Mike Haley; 14. Dan Goggin, 13. Sammy Arnold, 12. Rory Scannell, 11. Shane Daly; 10. JJ Hanrahan, 9. Nick McCarthy; 1. Dave Kilcoyne, 2. Kevin O’Byrne, 3. Stephen Archer, 4. Fineen Wycherley, 5. Billy Holland (capt), 6. Tommy O’Donnell, 7. Chris Cloete, 8. Jack O’Donoghue. Reps: 16. Diarmuid Barron, 17. Jeremy Loughman, 18. Keynan Knox, 19. Darren O’Shea, 20. Jack O’Sullivan, 21. Neil Cronin, 22. Joey Carbery, 23. Calvin Nash.
LEINSTER: 15. Hugo Keenan; 14. Adam Byrne, 13. Jimmy O’Brien, 12. Conor O’Brien, 11. James Lowe; 10. Ross Byrne; 9. Jamison Gibson-Park; 1. Ed Byrne, 2. James Tracy, 3. Andrew Porter, 4. Devin Toner, 5. Scott Fardy (capt), 6. Josh Murphy, 7. Will Connors, 8. Caelan Doris. Reps: 16. Sean Cronin, 17. Peter Dooley, 18. Jack Aungier, 19. Ross Molony, 20. Scott Penny, 21. Rowan Osborne, 22. Ciaran Frawley, 23. Tommy O’Brien.
WATCH: RugbyPass went behind the scenes with the Barbarians before their recent clash with Wales
Sign up to our mailing list for a weekly digest from the wide world of rugby.Sign Up Now