Leinster meet Munster in the almost annual Christmas meeting between the pair. Munster have chosen a nearly full strength side for the game but the visitors have made no fewer than ten changes for the game.
Ross Byrne starts at outhalf, UCD's Barry Daly is on the wing, Cian Healy and James Tracy are in the front row. Ross Molony and Mike McCarthy are in the second row, while the back row trio are Rhys Ruddock, Dan Leavy and Jack Conan. Robbie Henshaw returns at centre where he partners Rory O'Loughlin
Zane Kirchner; Isa Nacewa (Captain), Rory O’Loughlin, Robbie Henshaw, Barry Daly; Ross Byrne, Jamison Gibson-Park; Cian Healy, James Tracy, Tadhg Furlong; Ross Molony, Mike McCarthy; Rhys Ruddock, Dan Leavy, Jack Conan.
In his Irish Independent column, Tony Ward is unimpressed with the selection. According to Ward, the selection disrespects the fixture, the most storied rivalry in the short history of the Celtic League/Pro 12.
He absolves the Leinster management team of blame. They are having to adhere to the IRFU protocols around player management. He was also anxious to point out he is not dissing the players selected or impugning their potential. But he says the point stands.
Leinster having to field an understrength side smacks of disrespect towards a traditionally great fixture - regardless of the outcome... I need no convincing of the merits and potential of Ross Molony, Dan Leavy, Jack Conan, Ross Byrne, Barry Daly, Rory O Loughlin or Charlie Rock but I repeat the principle of selection in a fixture of this magnitude is wrong.
The comments section underneath Ward's article contains comments which alternate between "Disgraceful Leinster arrogance" and comments which point out that the Leinster team boasts eight Irish internationals, the exact same number as the Munster team.
Stuart Lancaster spoke during the week about the connection between the Leinster players and their supporters. He said the Leinster players were the best group he had ever come across.
Honestly, there is definitely no English team that has that proximity, that connection with their community. And even the senior players, the Rob Kearneys, I remember saying to Rob; 'So, have you had opportunities to go overseas? Play in France or wherever? And he says 'Yeah yeah' so I said 'Do you fancy it?', and he said; 'No, why would I want to do that? I just want to stay and play for Leinster.'
It's absolutely incredible. I've never met a club like it, and actually, I don't think the players understand what a strength that is. I would go as far as to say they are the best group of players I've come across.