Leo Cullen discusses the reasoning behind leaving Jonathan Sexton on the bench for visit of Munster

Leo Cullen discusses the reasoning behind leaving Jonathan Sexton on the bench for visit of Munster

By Brendan O'Brien

Leo Cullen admits that choosing a team for Saturday's clash with Munster has been complicated by the variety and complexity of demands on players at a time of year when Europe and November Test also come into view.

The Leinster head coach has, as expected, rested Jonathan Sexton for the weekend.

Sexton had, unusually for this time of the season, started the previous three games for the province prior to this week and he is guaranteed to start the Champions Cup games and fixtures against New Zealand and Argentina next month.

Something had to give.

It is still a seriously strong selection. Cullen has named eleven Ireland internationals in his starting side - and he has six more sitting on the bench - but Scott Fardy, Garry Ringrose and Tadgh Furlong will join Sexton in the stands despite being fit.

"It's a tricky balance this time of year, there is a lot of different variables,” said Cullen.

“We'd a very tough, physical game against Connacht last week, we've guys coming back at different stages and so we're trying to fit it into an overall plan.

With the game (against Wasps at the RDS) next week, how we manage the group ... but ultimately we’ve tried to pick a team that we think will be able to perform on the day and we hope is going to get the result we want as well.

Munster have declared their intent with an experienced, talented and eminently capable side and squad. Joey Carbery again starts at ten and Cullen admitted that the strength of the visitors' roster is a concern ahead of this meeting.

"It’s always a concern, yeah. Munster, we know a lot of the threats they have. They’ve changed slightly this season and have a different focus. It's hard to get a true gauge through their games. They've had very big wins at home and they've lost the two games they've played away.

"So, a lot of similar threats, guys we'd be familiar with. Even the guys that have come in, like Tadhg (Beirne), that we know well. Joey as well. Alby Mathewson is probably the one who we haven't seen as much footage on.

“He's had a period out of the game. We saw some of his clips from Toulon last year and the 50-odd minutes he had (against Ulster) last weekend. That's something a little bit different in the mix, but we'll expect a nice, physical contest as normal.”

A crowd in excess of 50,000 is expected in Ballsbridge for this one and Cullen was resolute in his views when asked if the rivalry still carries the allure of days gone by.

Definitely. Even when you think the last game we played against Munster was the (PRO14) semi-final in the RDS, and it had been so long since we had a game in the RDS, but it was an amazing occasion.

“There was somebody over from America, I met them during the week and said 'you should come along to this game'. They'd never been to a rugby match before and they had been to loads of different sports events in America and were blown away by the intensity, the crowd, the occasion.

"It's a sensational occasion, it's definitely one to be celebrated.”

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