Andrew Porter says that the Leinster-Munster rivalry started for him when he attended the European Cup semi-final between the sides at Croke Park back in 2009.

Speaking to the media via Microsoft Teams this week, the prop, then just a 13-year-old was in the stands as the provinces locked horns.

Leinster turned in a 25-6 win that day before going on to clinch a first European title and the impressionable young Porter was instantly hooked.

“I think that’s where it started for me and it’s grown and grown over the last few years, especially when you’re playing down in Thomond Park,” he explains.

“It’s a huge game and it’s always been one of those that you look forward to in the calendar. It’s a shame we didn’t get to play them on Stephen’s Day but ever since we found out that we’d be playing them this weekend, it’s been at the forefront of all of our minds.”

It’s been a productive 2020/21 campaign so far for Munster who sit top of Conference B after nine games with an 11-point cushion to second-placed Connacht.

They’ve suffered just one defeat this season, away to Ulster, while they enjoyed an impressive victory over Clermont at Stade Marcel Michelin the week before Christmas.

“They’ve been playing some really good rugby, especially coming back against Clermont,” Porter says.

“They’ve only lost one game in the PRO14 this season and are unbeaten at home as well. It’s going to be a good challenge for us, going down to Thomond Park and playing a team of the calibre that Munster are.

“It’s a huge test but it’s something we’re relishing. It’s one of those games that everyone is looking forward to and I think the people at home will be looking forward to it as well. It’s really exciting.”

As a mainstay of the Leinster and Ireland packs since the autumn return to competition, Porter is now accustomed to behind-closed-doors games.

However, he was keen to reiterate that the supporters have never left the minds of him and his teammates.

“We’re privileged enough to be able to keep doing what we’re doing and maintaining a small bit of normality for us.

“But, we’ve talked about how we’re not just doing it for ourselves or our families, we’re doing it for everyone sitting at home watching.

“If we can give a performance that they can be proud of, or take a bit of happiness or get a bit of distraction from all the craziness, that’s something we look to do.”

The Guinness PRO14 clash between Munster Rugby and Leinster Rugby at Thomond Park takes place on Saturday, 23 January (KO 7.35pm – live on eir Sport and RTÉ Radio).