Irish rugby has never been in a healthier position. A year out from the World Cup, Ireland are Grand Slam champions, while Leinster are Pro 14 and European Champions. Not a bad way to enter the new season, but as Munster and Leinster prepare to meet this Saturday, leading into another European campaign, the place Leinster's success plays in the overall health of Irish rugby won't be much solace for Munster's players and staff.
Knocking the champions off their perch both domestically and in Europe will be the chief demand of Munster for the 2017/18 season, and that journey starts in earnest on Saturday in the Aviva Stadium.
How that desire to beat their arch rivals is reconciled with the fact that the players are teammates internationally is something that both sides are well used to, and something that has both sides have had to deal with during varying periods of dominance for both teams. How do the players react when they get together for Ireland?
Ahead of Saturday's game, we caught up with Munster and Leinster legends Peter Stringer and Malcolm O'Kelly to clear the air on the great rivalry of the two provinces in the early 2000s, and Stringer talked about the awkwardness of coming off club success at international get-togethers.
Far from the immediately united front presented to the public, Stringer points out just how conflicted all sides would be after one team has achieved the success being dreamed of by the rest of the dressing room.
PS: It was always difficult coming into Irish camp on the back of winning a Heineken Cup. Your assembling for a summer tour. We walk into the hotel and the team meeting room, on that first evening we kind of catch up, and we go in...
MOK: And there's almost a tension in the air.
PS: There is! Because we're proud of the fact that we've won a Heineken Cup, a European Cup, and you get that sense from the other guys from the other provinces that are there.... you probably could have done with a Dyson Air Purifier in the room. It would have cleared the air a small bit!
Ireland's performances in Australia last summer certainly weren't hampered by Leinster's success, but one does wonder if the current crop of players from Munster, starved of European success in their careers, are driven on by the silverware of their rivals and teammates.
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