We've had to wait a long time for a Munster v Leinster derby.

It's been 11 months since their last meeting, a 27-3 Munster victory in the Rainbow Cup, ending a run of six straight Leinster wins in this fixture.

This game was originally set to be be played at the Aviva Stadium, with the provinces agreeing to swap their home and away arrangements this season, due to a clash with Thomond Park's staging of an Ed Sheeran concert in May.

Their derby is the pick of this week's URC games, while Ulster and Connacht are also in action, with both sides away from home.

Having come agonisingly close to winning against the Stormers in Cape Town last week, Ulster are up in the Highveld for the second leg of their South African tour, with Dan McFarland's side taking on an in-form Bulls team at Lofus Versfeld.

Connacht's play-off hopes are hanging by a thread, and only a win away to Benetton on Saturday afternoon looks like keeping their top-eight chances alive.


TV

Benetton v Connacht (Saturday 12pm) and Munster v Leinster (Saturday 7pm) are live on RTÉ2 and RTÉ Player, while Bulls v Ulster (Saturday 1pm) is live on Premier Sports.

RADIO

Saturday Sport on RTÉ Radio 1 will have live commentary of Munster v Leinster.

ONLINE

RTE.ie/sport will have live scoring and blogs across the weekend with match reports and reaction from the grounds. All games are live on URC TV.

WEATHER

There's a small chance of rain in Limerick on Saturday evening for Munster v Leinster at Thomond Park, with temperatures just below 10C. Showers are more likely in Treviso where Connacht face Benetton on Saturday afternoon, while Ulster will have to deal with a scorching 28C in Pretoria on Saturday afternoon.


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It's been a rough few weeks at the Sportsground.

Having seemingly turned a corner with wins against the Scarlets and Stormers, Andy Friend's side have shipped 101 points in the last two games against Edinburgh and Leinster.

The way those points were conceded is even tougher to stomach, having led 8-0 against Edinburgh after 28 minutes, and 8-7 against Leinster, only to suffer second-half collapses on each occasion.

If the 2016 champions are to reach the play-offs, it's likely they will have to win all four of their remaining games, facing Italian sides Benetton and Zebre either side of their South African tour to the Lions and Sharks later this month.

Connacht's opponents haven't won since Christmas Eve and shipped 50 away to Munster last week, but Benetton did win this fixture last May in the Rainbow Cup at Stadio di Monigo.

Benetton: Andries Coetzee; Edoardo Padovani, Ignacio Brex, Tommaso Menoncello, Monty Ioane; Giacomo Da Re, Dewaldt Duvenage (capt); Thomas Gallo, Giacomo Nicotera, Nahuel Tetaz; Irnè Herbst, Federico Ruzza; Michele Lamaro, Sebastian Negri, Toa Halafihi

Replacements: Tomas Baravalle, Ivan Nemer, Tiziano Pasquali, Niccolò Cannone, Manuel Zuliani, Callum Braley, Leonardo Marin, Joaquin Riera

Connacht: Tiernan O'Halloran; John Porch, Tom Farrell, Sammy Arnold, Mack Hansen; Jack Carty (capt), Kieran Marmion; Matthew Burke, Dave Heffernan, Finlay Bealham; Niall Murray, Leva Fifita; Cian Prendergast, Conor Oliver, Paul Boyle

Replacements: Dylan Tierney-Martin, Greg McGrath, Tietie Tuimauga, Gavin Thornbury, Abraham Papali’i, Caolin Blade, Conor Fitzgerald, Sean Masterson

Referee: Pierre Brouset (FFR, league debut)


The Irish derby between Munster and Leinster may take top billing this weekend, but the meeting of the Bulls and Ulster in Pretoria has all the makings of a nailbiter.

Dan McFarland's side came within a whisker of being the first touring side to win down in South Africa when they were beaten by the Stormers, with URC referee chief Tappe Henning later admitting their disallowed match-winning try should have stood.

And having welcomed back some of their Six Nations players for that game in Cape Town, it's expected that Iain Henderson's return will add some extra beef to the Ulster pack.

There's also a reunion on the cards, with Ulster legend Marcell Coetzee at the base of the Bulls scrum, having scored seven tries for Jake White's side this season.

The Currie Cup champions have looked formidable in recent weeks, recovering from their poor start to the season by winning six of their last seven games, and moving into the playoff spots.

Vodacom Bulls: Kurt-Lee Arendse; Canan Moodie, Cornal Hendricks, Harold Vorster, Madosh Tambwe; Chris Smith, Zak Burger; Gerhard Steenekamp, Johan Grobbelaar, Mornay Smith; Walt Steenkamp, Ruan Nortje; Marcell Coetzee (capt), Cyle Brink, Elrigh Louw

Replacements: Joe van Zyl, Simphiwe Matanzima, Robert Hunt, Reinhardt Ludwig, Arno Botha; Keagan Johannes, Morne Steyn, Lionel Mapoe

Ulster Rugby: Mike Lowry; Ben Moxham, James Hume, Luke Marshall, Ethan McIlroy; Ian Madigan, Nathan Doak; Andrew Warwick, Brad Roberts, Marty Moore; Kieran Treadwell, Iain Henderson (capt); Jordi Murphy, Nick Timoney, Duane Vermeulen

Replacements: Tom Stewart, Eric O'Sullivan, Tom O’Toole, Mick Kearney, Matty Rea, John Cooney, Marcus Rea, Stewart Moore.

Referee: Andrea Piardi (FIR, 22nd league game)


Originally scheduled for 26 December, and then re-fixed for May, Ed Sheeran's concert means the Thomond Park meeting of Munster and Leinster has been moved twice before being settled for this weekend.

It's a first meeting between the pair since the Rainbow Cup in April 2021, and a first played in front of a crowd since December 2019.

While Munster came out on top in the last derby between the sides, Leinster have dominated the fixture in recent years, winning nine of the 11 meetings since Johann van Graan took over, and 13 of their last 16 clashes dating back to 2015.

With Munster still due for a return trip to Dublin, as well as an away visit to Ulster, a win this weekend would give their hopes of a top-two finish a shot in the arm, while victory for Leinster would see them take a huge step towards home advantage all the way to a potential semi-final.

While both sides welcome back their internationals from Six Nations duty, Johnny Sexton has been given an extra weekend off by Leinster boss Leo Cullen.

Meanwhile the hosts remain without the injured Andrew Conway, Tadhg Beirne and Dave Kilcoyne whp all brought knocks back from the Six Nations.

Munster: Matt Gallagher; Calvin Nash, Chris Farrell, Damian de Allende, Shane Daly; Joey Carbery, Conor Murray; Jeremy Loughman, Niall Scannell, Stephen Archer; Jason Jenkins, Fineen Wycherley; Peter O'Mahony (capt), Chris Cloete, Gavin Coombes.

Replacements: Diarmuid Barron, Josh Wycherley, John Ryan, Thomas Ahern, Alex Kendellen, Craig Casey, Ben Healy, Keith Earls

Leinster: Hugo Keenan; Jimmy O'Brien, Garry Ringrose (capt), Robbie Henshaw, James Lowe; Ross Byrne, Jamison Gibson-Park; Ed Byrne, James Tracy, Michael Ala’alatoa; Devin Toner, Jack Dunne; Caelan Doris, Josh van der Flier, Jack Conan

Replacements: Dan Sheehan, Cian Healy, Tadhg Furlong, Ross Molony, Josh Murphy, Luke McGrath, Ciarán Frawley, Max Deegan

Referee: Christophe Ridley (RFU, league debut)