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Battling Munster ready to give Leinster a fierce contest

Johnny Sexton's absence and European exertions may take a toll

Leinster and Munster look set for another fierce battle
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Pro14 semi-final
Sky Sports Action & TG4, 3.15pm Saturday

Fans hoping for a Leinster v Munster European Champions Cup final were left disappointed, and there won't be an all-Ireland showdown in for the Pro14 title either as the fierce rivals go head-to-head for a place in next Saturday's final at the Aviva Stadium.

On paper Leinster have everything in their favour. They finished top of their conference, won both regular-season meetings with Munster and go into the game having just been crowned champions of Europe.

But their victory in last weekend's Champions Cup final against Racing 92 of Paris came at a cost as fly-half Johnny Sexton is ruled out for this showdown through injury and it's hard to know how much that victory will have taken out of the players and how focused they will be given the whirlwind that follows a success of that scale.

Nine of last weekend's team start, among them captain Isa Nacewa who has been passed fit and starts at outside centre, but the absence of Sexton, who has been the heartbeat of the team, is huge.

Munster are able to name a strong line-up with the axis of Conor Murray and JJ Hanrahan at nine and ten, and they can make this a fiercely contested battle.

October's regular-season clash at the RDS Arena ended in a 23-17 victory for hosts Leinster and while the margin was bigger in the reverse fixture on Boxing Day, when Munster were beaten 34-24, a handicap of nine points looks too big for this showdown.

Munster showed all of their battling qualities to see off a dogged Edinburgh team in the quarter-finals a fortnight ago, and the physical onslaught Leinster had to soak up against Racing last week will surely take a toll at some stage.

Recommendation
Munster +9
2pts Evs Hills


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Munster showed all of their battling qualities to see off a dogged Edinburgh team in the quarter-finals a fortnight ago
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