Speaking ahead of Friday’s Interprovincial derby, Leinster captain LEO CULLEN said that the team has great respect for the challenge of an in-form Munster side…

“Training has been a bit disjointed over the last while and it was the same last week with the return of the international players from Ireland camp, so it was hardly ideal preparation from our point of view.

“When you come up against a team like Connacht who are together for longer periods without too much disruption to their personnel, you have to adapt fast and to their credit they looked more cohesive and were unlucky not to come away with something more from the game.

“We had opportunities to win the game, but we got out of jail and the players know that we will have to improve this week because we’re coming up against an in-form Munster team who have been steadily improving in recent months.

“Their forwards make up the majority of the Ireland pack and they have real experience and class in their half-back combinations. When you supplement that to some quality overseas players in the likes of Howlett, Mafi and Warwick it makes for a potent combination alongside some exciting outside backs.

“Of course it’s a league game with points up for grabs, and from a club perspective we want to secure a home semi final, but derby games have more spice and some of us have been at it for ten years or more, so you have a fair indication of what to expect come kick off!

“There’s always added spice when you come up against colleagues from international camp and the familiarity that brings, coupled with the incredible support in the stands and terraces, makes it such a massive occasion and a privilege to be a part of.

“The supporters make these games so special and the way they buy into the occasion with the banter and the singing adds so much. We’ll have over 4,000 supporters down there and I’m sure they’ll make themselves heard.

“Thomond Park is one of the great grounds in world rugby. The biggest thing that hits you when you take to the field is the noise and the supporters, it seems, are right on top of you. It’s an intimidating place to play, but these are the venues you want to play and challenge yourself in.”