The Leinster Academy Team Manager reflects on the quarter-final draw in the British & Irish Cup which will see his Leinster ‘A’ side face Munster ‘A’…

Clashes between Leinster and Munster have been key fixtures in the rugby calendar for supporters of both clubs for decades. It is only in recent years that the battle between these two teams has spilled over into new territory – the British & Irish Cup.

This will be the third consecutive year in which Leinster ‘A’ and Munster ‘A’ will have faced each other in the knockout stages of the competition. Two years ago Munster got the better of Leinster in a semi-final in the RDS in a game that went to extra-time. Last season, Leinster played away to Munster in the semi-final and won 17-15 in a tight game in Garryowen FC. On both occasions, the winning team went on to win the B&I Cup.

While it may be a tougher quarter-final tie than either team would have wanted, Leinster Academy Manager Girvan Dempsey is looking forward to an exciting game.

“It’s a really exciting quarter-final. There’s good history between ourselves and Munster right through the age grade rugby to the professional game, particularly in the B&I Cup over the last couple of years.”

Girvan Dempsey

Dempsey believes though that whatever the draw may have been for the quarter-final, Leinster were always going to end up with a difficult tie.

“Looking at the pools, I don’t think there’s any easy tie. Having seen all the teams and their records throughout the pool stages I think the qualification has been pretty tough and in the last eight there’s a lot of strong teams.”

The changes to this season’s draw for the knockout stages mean that if Leinster ‘A’ do get past Munster and advance to the semi-final they will be away to either Cornish Pirates or Pontypridd, despite qualifying from their pool as the tournament’s top seeds.

Cornish Pirates are one of only four sides to have won the B&I Cup since the competition began in the 09/10 season, and they currently sit sixth in the English Championship table just seven points off a promotion playoff spot. Pontypridd are at the top of the Welsh Premiership table, with a game in hand over their nearest rivals, Llandovery.

“It’s a tough draw potentially in the semi-final having to go away, and particularly to the winners of Cornish Pirates and Pontypridd,” Dempsey says. 

“We’ve experience of both those places over the last few years. Cornwall is a very tough place to play and they’ve had good success in the B&I Cup in the last few years. SImilarly, Pontypridd are a side who’ve always been very strong in the Welsh league and have had good success in the B&I Cup, and beat us when we were over there last year.”

British and Irish Cup

Preparing for B&I Cup games can be a tricky task. Video footage of opposition teams is limited and the Academy players are usually preoccupied with helping the senior team prepare for games during Heineken Cup weeks.

“The preparation is challenging because you’ve obviously limited access to footage, you don’t get to see a lot of the opposition that you’re playing and then within that you’re just trying to prepare the guys in the small amount of time that you have with them,” Dempsey explains.

“Our window of opportunity to work together as a team is limited but you just make sure that the information you give the players is pretty succinct and you don’t go in with a massive gameplan, you keep it pretty tight and you work on the basics. It’s stood us in good stead so far.”

Before thoughts can drift to a potential semi-final in Cornwall or south Wales, there’s a battle on a new front against an old rival to navigate.

“The match against Munster will be exciting. We had them in the semi-final two years ago and obviously again in the semi-final last year. They managed to get the better of us two years ago and we managed to get on the right side of the result last year. This year’s quarter-final will be a great opportunity to go head-to-head against a strong Munster side.”

Leinster ‘A’ will face Munster ‘A’ in the quarter-final of the British & Irish Cup on the weekend beginning April 4th. Look out for more details for this fixture on the Leinster Rugby website, Facebook page and Twitter account.

Leinster take on Munster in the Aviva stadium on March 29th. Click here to get your tickets for this game.