Must-win game for Munster and other talking points ahead of PRO14 semi-final against Leinster

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Leinster take on Munster in Saturday’s PRO14 semi-final at the Aviva Stadium.

Here, we take a look at three talking points ahead of the game.

Must-win game for Munster

Munster will have to be accurate to execute a game plan to beat Leinster and secure a place in their third final in four years.

Johan van Graan’s side are yet to taste victory against their provincial neighbours this season, having lost 23-17 to the Blues in October and 34-24 in the reverse fixture at Thomond Park in December.

While the odds may be stacked against them, the Red Army will be desperate to beat a fatigued Leinster side with Conor Murray’s tactical ticking, CJ Stander’s threatening carries, a pacy back three and accurate distribution from JJ Hanrahan all primary assets.

The wreckage of their disappointing Champions Cup semi-final defeat to Racing will motivate Munster, with the prospect of adding a first trophy to the cabinet since 2011 sure to inspire Peter O’Mahony and co ahead of next season.

Champions Cup come down?

Following the emotion of the victory in Bilbao last week, Leinster have little time to reflect on their fourth European crown with all eyes on the clash in Dublin.

European final takes plenty from a team, not only physically but also psychologically. But if Munster can lift their game from the four point win over Edinburgh on May 5 then it could be a tighter battle than many think.

Leinster have been in this position before and twice their Champions Cup and PRO14 double hopes have been scuppered, with defeats to Munster and Ospreys in 2011 and 2012 respectively.

It’s by no means a full strength and fresh Leinster XV but with an embarrassment of riches to select from, they can trouble any opposition if their back-line is provided with quick ball in space.

Absence of big names could level up proceedings

With Johnny Sexton and Robbie Henshaw such pivotal figures on both an attacking and defensive front for Leinster, their absence could level up the contest in Dublin.

The strength and consistency in defence has made the key difference to Cullen’s side this season, with Henshaw at the forefront of their dominance in this area.

The Athlone man has no fear and his reading of the game makes it easier for the players on his outside, but a knee injury sidelines him this weekend with Garry Ringrose moving to 13 and Isa Nacewa selected at 12.

At 10, Johnny Sexton’s leadership and game management will be another significant loss for the Blues with a groin injury ruling him out of action.

The Irish star is a model of consistency any time he gets the ball in hand, and has the ability to keep his side on the frontfoot in attack.

23-year-old Ross Byrne will step in and add solidity, but devoid of the same game-changing influence.

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