Full-strength Leinster ‘relishing’ Reds clash

Paul O’Connell may have been the totem for Munster’s shock defeat of Harlequins at The Stoop last weekend but James Downey’s tackle on Mike Brown summed the day up in one fearsome fraction of a second.

Full-strength Leinster ‘relishing’ Reds clash

The image of the full-back emerging from his 22 with ball in hand only to be dumped backwards by a perfectly executed challenge from the Munster centre is already assured of legendary status in any DVD of Munster’s greatest European moments.

Alongside Casey Lualala, Downey brought a physicality to the midfield that Harlequins just couldn’t match and it must have provided considerable food for thought for Leinster this week ahead of their trip to Limerick tomorrow.

“I really enjoy the physical element of being in the centre,” said Fergus McFadden. “There is a different component to playing there and being on the wing but I don’t really know what combination Joe is going to go with.

“Obviously, Brian [O’Driscoll] is back from his suspension and we have pretty much a full deck of cards to play with this week with Johnny [Sexton] back as well. It is getting to that business end of the season so hopefully I will be in the mix.”

Such comings and goings of personnel have undoubtedly played a role in frustrating Leinster’s ambitions of winning a third straight Heineken Cup this year but McFadden insists there is much to play for in both the RaboDirect PRO12 and the Amlin Challenge Cup.

A victory at Thomond Park tomorrow evening would make their title hopes in the former far more feasible in that it would propel them a considerable distance towards a home play-off berth.

Whether this is an opportune time to be making the trip to the southwest remains to be seen. Were this anyone other than Leinster visiting there would be a tendency to believe Munster would be unable to replicate their efforts of last Sunday.

McFadden, who played a part in the Challenge Cup defeat of Wasps seven days ago, is of the belief that it is never a bad time to be playing games of such import and against such close neighbours too.

“These interpro matches are ones we really relish,” said the Irish international. “I think it is definitely good timing. It was nice to get the win against Wasps.

“As a neutral supporter, after the Munster result at the weekend as well, it is a bit of a mouth-watering prospect. We are going to have to turn up down there. It is not going to be easy.”

Certainly not for a Munster side coming off such an impassioned performance and with just six days separating the fixture in London and this latest joust with their most familiar of rivals.

“I suppose so,” admitted McFadden. “Yeah, a five-day turnaround after a really bruising game isn’t ideal but Munster have the kind of squad that can cope.

“Their strength and conditioning guys will be monitoring that I’m sure.

“In this type of a game I don’t think it will make much difference.”

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