Leinster cruised to a home Heineken Champions Cup quarter-final with Ulster, after beating Wasps in Coventry on Sunday.
The reigning champions showed their class with the game finishing 37-19 in their favour.
The result ensured they finished top of pool 1 and has set up the first all Irish quarter-final in the competition since Ulster saw off Munster in 2012.
That year Ulster went all the way to the final, only to lose to their opponents Leinster 42-14.
Leinster knew that they had qualified for the last eight before kick-off thanks to Edinburgh’s win on Friday night, but they still had work to do to secure top spot.
They started well with Ross Byrne kicking a 12th minute penalty before they claimed the opening try four minutes later.
After some great work in the Wasps 22, they worked the ball out towards Dave Kearney who almost found the line but was held just short. However, within seconds, Garry Ringrose showed Nathan Hughes his dancing feet and pounced over the line.
Byrne kicked that conversion, along with another penalty to leave the score at 13-0 by the 28th minute.
In the 34th minute Sean Cronin bundled his way over from the back of a maul, with Byrne adding the extras for a 20-0 half-time lead.
The second-half was more even with Hughes heading over for the hosts 12 minutes in.
By the 58th minute Leinster had restored their 20-point lead, with Cronin repeating his first half party piece, while scoring his 6th try in this year’s competition already.
Five minutes later and Wasps were over again, with Dan Robson bursting through the defence to get on the score sheet.
Heading towards the final 10 minutes and Noel Reid banished any hopes of a Wasps comeback. Some brilliant offloading, and ball skills resulting in Max Deegan sending the substitute over, with Reid converting.
With two minutes remaining Marcus Watson jumped over the line for the home side after claiming the ball with an incredible catch.
Reid scored a last-minute penalty for Leinster to settle the 37-19 score line.
After the match Wasps rugby director Dai Young applauded his team’s effort but admitted that Leinster will be tough for anyone to stop.
“It is still hurting at the minute, but you have got to give Leinster credit. They are a fantastic team, and they are going to take some beating in this competition again”, said Young.
The win showed just how good Leinster can be going forward, but there were some cracks in the defence that Ulster and other teams will be looking at.
What’s certain is that Irish rugby fans are in for another treat when the two meet with a place in the semi-finals at steak.
Squad Update | Munster Prepare For Bayonne At Thomond
The Munster squad are preparing at the HPC ahead of Saturday’s Investec Champions Cup opener against Bayonne at Thomond Park (5.30pm).
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Jean Kleyn will be unavailable until the New Year due to an eye injury suffered in the Leinster match. He attended for a specialist review last Tuesday and Wednesday and will have further follow-up before Christmas.
Jack Daly (ankle) and Liam Coombes (shoulder) both underwent surgery last week and will begin rehabilitation under the medical department.
There is good news for Patrick Campbell (ankle) as he has returned to team training.
Jack O’Donoghue (ankle) will also return to training this week.
Simon Zebo (knee) will continue to rehabilitate early this week.
The availability of Campbell, O’Donoghue and Zebo will be determined later in the week.
Peter O’Mahony (shoulder) is improving but will remain unavailable for the Bayonne clash.
Continuing to rehab: Jack Daly (ankle), Peter O’Mahony (shoulder), Liam Coombes (shoulder), RG Snyman (chest/shoulder), Joey Carbery (wrist), Roman Salanoa (knee), Mike Haley (hip), Cian Hurley (ankle/achilles), Niall Scannell (groin).
There were 11 Munster players in AIL action for their clubs at the weekend.
In Division 1A, Fionn Gibbons, Chris Moore and Keynan Knox helped Young Munster to a win over City of Armagh with Gibbons among the tries.
Ethan Coughlan and Daniel Okeke were in action for Shannon as they were beaten away to Terenure College.
In Division 1B, Jack Oliver, George Hadden and Colm Hogan helped Garryowen beat Blackrock College with Hogan scoring a try on his debut for the club. Oliver also kicked three conversions and two penalties.
Jack O’Sullivan and Ben O’Connor featured for UCC as they were narrowly beaten by Old Wesley.
In Evan O’Connell helped UL Bohemians to a draw against MU Barnhall.
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A World First For Munster Rugby And Crusaders
Munster Rugby and the Crusaders are set to create history in 2024 with a world-first ‘Clash of Champions’ game on Saturday, February 3 (5pm).
The New Zealand franchise secured their seventh successive Super Rugby Pacific championship on Saturday in Waikato defeating Chiefs 25-20 to retain their title. They are the most successful team in the competition’s history having won 14 trophies and are world renowned for their history and record of success and excellence.
Following Munster’s recent URC success in Cape Town, it will be the first time ever the reigning champions of the URC and Super Rugby face off against each other.
Former Munster Head Coach Rob Penney has already been confirmed as the new Crusaders Head Coach from 2024 and their pre-season campaign will see them embark on their first-ever international tour for fixtures against Munster and Bristol Bears.
Munster Rugby CEO, Ian Flanagan said: “We are delighted to welcome the Super Rugby champions to Munster, hosting a groundbreaking fixture against the Crusaders.
“We hold a proud and rich history of playing touring sides and I’ve no doubt next February’s game will be a special occasion for all involved.”
Colin Mansbridge, Crusaders CEO, said: “The Crusaders are thrilled to be coming over to Ireland and the UK to face some stiff competition away from home.
“NZ and Australian clubs have been working on the World Club Competition for years, so when an opportunity for Super teams to play Northern Hemisphere counterparts came up, it was just too good to pass up.
“Munster have a history of giving touring sides a pretty hard time, so they present particularly tough competition. There’s also the added connection with our new Head Coach Rob Penney who coached there,” Mansbridge said.
The venue within Munster, and ticket details, will be confirmed in due course. MRSC members will be contacted directly regarding a pre-sale.
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2024 Crusaders Ireland and UK Fixtures
Saturday, February 3, 2024
Munster Rugby v Crusaders, Venue TBC, 5pm;
Friday February 9, 2024
Bristol Bears v Crusaders, Ashton Gate, 7.30pm;
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Leinster drawn in Pool 4 in the 2023/24 Champions Cup
The draw for the pool stages of the 2023/24 Champions Cup took place earlier this afternoon in Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.
Leinster Rugby have been drawn in Pool 4, alongside La Rochelle, Stade Francais, Leicester Tigers, DHL Stormers and Sale Sharks.
Leo Cullen’s team will face La Rochelle, Stade Francais, Leicester Tigers and Sale Sharks in the four pool matches, with two matches at home, and two matches away.
The top-four teams from each pool will advance to the Round of 16, with the fifth-placed teams moving into the EPCR Challange Cup.
All fixture details will be confirmed in due course.
Round 1 – 8/9/10 December 2023
Round 2 – 15/16/17 December 2023
Round 3 – 12/13/14 January 2024
Round 4 – 19/20/21 January 2024
Round of 16 – 5/6/7 April 2024
Quarter-Finals – 12/13/14 April 2024
Semi-Finals – 3/4/5 May 2024
EPCR Challenge Cup Final – Friday 24 May 2024, Tottenham Hotspur Stadium
Champions Cup Final – Saturday 25 May 2024, Tottenham Hotspur Stadium
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