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Page last updated at 13:41 GMT, Friday, 1 May 2009 14:41 UK

Munster v Leinster (Sat)

HEINEKEN CUP
Venue: Croke Park Date: Saturday, 2 May Kick-off: 1730 BST
Coverage: Score updates on BBC Sport website


Leinster's Leo Cullen
Leo Cullen returns to captain Leinster in the semi-final at Croke Park

Leo Cullen returns to skipper Leinster in Saturday's All-Ireland Heineken Cup semi-final against Munster in Dublin.

Shane Horgan plays at right wing with Isa Nacewa moving to full-back in place of Girvan Dempsey who is on the bench after suffering a knock in training.

Rob Kearney has not recovered from the bout of mumps which forced him to miss the Magners League win over Glasgow.

Munster have replaced injured scrum-half Tomas O'Leary with his fellow Ireland international Peter Stringer.

The clash at Croke Park will feature 10 players who have been picked for the Lions tour to South Africa this summer.

But one player who will now not make the trip is O'Leary, who broke his ankle against the Scarlets on 24 April.

SIMON AUSTIN BLOG

His absence means that Stringer will start at number nine for the holders, while Mike Prendergast is named as the replacement scrum-half.

Leinster forward CJ van der Linde has not made the 22 after being out of action because of a foot injury.

While Kearney is ruled out, Leinster's other three Lions squad members Brian O'Driscoll, Jamie Heaslip and Luke Fitzgerald are all included in the team.

Gordon D'Arcy is also fit to start despite being withdrawn from the field early in the win over Glasgow.

Leinster coach Michael Cheika said that Kearney had been forced to go to hospital because of his illness but that he was recovering well.

"The priority for him is to become healthy again and getting him back on the field as soon as we can," said Cheika.

Leinster are regarded as massive underdogs for the Croke Park contest.

The province have never reached the Heineken Cup final, having failed three times at the semi-final stage, while Munster, who were crowned Magners League champions on Thursday night, are searching for their third European title in four seasons.

We have a massive task ahead of us in taking on the champions of Europe, and playing in Dublin is no great advantage to us either

Leinster flanker Shane Jennings

Munster have beaten Leinster twice in the league this season - restricting Brian O'Driscoll's men to just one score - while they came out on top when the two sides met in the 2006 Heineken Cup semi-final.

"To be honest, it is hard to say whether it is a benefit or a hindrance knowing each other so well," said Leinster open-side flanker Shane Jennings.

"But we have played them twice this season and they won on both occasions, so they have to go into the semi-final as hot favourites.

"Each team pretty much knows what to expect from the other, but the whole of Ireland will quite rightly regard us as the underdogs.

"We have a massive task ahead of us in taking on the champions of Europe, and playing in Dublin is no great advantage to us either.

"The majority of the Munster boys know Croke Park well and have been successful there, so it is of no additional benefit for us."

And Cheika acknowledged that his team would be facing a Munster side that had been "pretty untouchable so far this year".

"We understand that not many people expect us to beat them.

"But it's all about us believing in ourselves I suppose, and our supporters, and making sure we do our best on the day."


Leinster: Nacewa; Horgan, B O'Driscoll, D'Arcy, Fitzgerald; Contepomi, Whitaker; Healy, Jackman, Wright, Cullen (capt), O'Kelly, Elsom, Jennings, Heaslip.
Replacements: Fogarty, McCormick, Toner, O'Brien, Keogh, Sexton, Dempsey.

Munster: Warwick; Howlett, Earls, Mafi, Dowling; O'Gara, Stringer; Horan, Flannery, Hayes, O'Callaghan, O'Connell (capt), Quinlan, Wallace, Leamy.
Replacements: Fogarty, Buckley, M O'Driscoll, Ronan, Prendergast, B Murphy, Hurley.



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see also
Heineken Cup 2008/9
17 Jul 08 |  Rugby Union
Lions ponder O'Leary replacement
27 Apr 09 |  Rugby Union
Leinster wary of Munster threat
12 Apr 09 |  Rugby Union
Munster 43-9 Ospreys
12 Apr 09 |  Rugby Union
Harlequins 5-6 Leinster
12 Apr 09 |  Rugby Union
European rugby archive
16 Aug 06 |  Rugby Union


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