Magners League
Red against blue at Magners summit
ESPNscrum Staff
March 31, 2011
Munster's Doug Howlett braces for impact, Munster v Australia, Thomond Park, Limerick, Ireland, November 16, 2010
Munster, and winger Doug Howlett, face Leinster on Saturday © Getty Images

Last weekend's narrow victory over Cardiff Blues gave Magners League leaders Munster a massive 12-point cushion over their nearest rivals, Leinster, who visit Thomond Park on Saturday.

Munster have named a strong squad for the fixture, but will come up against a Leinster side that includes the likes of Gordon D'Arcy, Cian Healy, Sean O'Brien, Brian O'Driscoll and Mike Ross. Jonathan Sexton continues at fly-half while Isaac Boss is named at No.9, with Eoin Reddan on the bench.

Sexton will face off against Ronan O'Gara, while Keith Earls is named on the wing as Johne Murphy and Lifeimi Mafi combine in midfield. Paul O'Connell, Donncha O'Callaghan and David Wallace all start in the pack.

Cardiff Blues are approaching the last-chance saloon in their bid for a play-off berth and will need to pull one out of the fire as they travel to face the Ospreys on Saturday.

The hosts currently occupy fourth spot on 55 points and are level with Ulster and Leinster above them, but surprisingly lost out to Edinburgh last weekend. The Blues are lurking five points back, but have a game in hand on their rivals.

Jamie Roberts returns to partner Casey Laulala in midfield, while Dan Parks is joined at halfback by Richie Rees, who will be making his comeback after a ban for making contact with the eyes/eye area of Northampton hooker Dylan Hartley. In the pack, Bradley Davies returns in the second-row and Gareth Williams at hooker.

James Hook returns to the No.12 jersey for the Ospreys, with Dan Biggar and Rhys Webb at halfback. Mike Phillips starts on the bench while in the pack, props Adam Jones and Paul James will hope to put the pressure on a flaky Blues front-row.

Ulster are back at Ravenhill this weekend, where they face the sixth-placed Scarlets on Friday. BJ Botha and Ian Humphreys both return for the hosts after injury, while winger Andrew Trimble is also recalled. Rory Best captains the side from hooker.

The Scarlets are without Wales winger George North, who has a minor concussion, but are boosted by the return of skipper Matthew Rees in the front-row as they look to avenge a narrow 18-16 loss back in February.

Also on Friday, Connacht host Edinburgh at the Sportsground, having become the first team to lose to Aironi in domestic action. The Italian club are again at home this weekend and will want to make it two from two against a struggling Glasgow side.

Keith Matthews will play his 100th game for Connacht while Ireland hooker Sean Cronin and Leinster-bound prop Jamie Hagan start in the front-row. Edinburgh have made only one change from the side that defeated the Ospreys, with Scotland prop Geoff Cross returning at tight-head in place of David Young.

Graeme Morrison returns to the Glasgow midfield after injury and skippers the side, while Aironi have called in Nicola Cattina and Giulio Toniolatti following injuries to winger Kaine Robertson and flanker Gareth Krause.

Sunday's game sees the Dragons host Benetton Treviso at Rodney Parade. The home side have been boosted by the the return of Wales flanker Danny Lydiate while Italy international Alberto Sgarbi returns from international duty in the Treviso midfield.

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

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