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RaboDirect Pro12 preview: Top two go head-to-head as Leinster host Munster

Last Updated: 28/03/14 4:14pm

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Leinster face Munster in Dublin as the PRO12's top two go head to head

Leinster face Munster in Dublin as the PRO12's top two go head to head

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The top two in the RaboDirect Pro12 go head-to-head on Saturday as leaders Leinster play host to Leinster in Dublin.

Lowly Cardiff Blues have a home game against high-flying Ulster while Zebre tackle the Dragons and Treviso are at home to Edinburgh.

Leinster v Munster

Munster head coach Rob Penney has made a total of ten changes for his side's crunch clash with rivals Leinster.

Paul O'Connell, Peter O'Mahony, Conor Murray and Tommy O'Donnell all return after helping Ireland to Six Nations Championship glory.

Ian Keatley, man-of-the-match when Munster beat Leinster 19-15 at Thomond Park in October returns to partner Murray in the half-backs. Keatley will be looking to reach 500 points for Munster, the fly-half has 497 points in his 67 appearances.

Denis Hurley comes in to partner Casey Laulala in the centres with Laulala set to make his 47th appearance after less than two years at the province.

There is also a welcome return for a number of the Six Nations winning Irish players in Leinster's line-up. However, the majority only returned to training last Monday.

With niggling injuries persisting for Cian Healy, Jack McGrath, Marty Moore and Tadhg Furlong, the front row is still made up of full internationals with Michael Bent, Richardt Strauss and Mike Ross selected. Strauss starts for cap number 90 in Leinster colours.

Devin Toner and Mike McCarthy make up the second row combination, Toner fresh from a first full Six Nations campaign with Ireland. Jamie Heaslip is back to captain the side from number eight.

Cardiff Blues v Ulster

Inspirational hooker Matthew Rees makes his eagerly-anticipated return to rugby as Cardiff Blues face Ulster Rugby in at the Arms Park.

Rees - affectionately known across the rugby world as 'Smiler' - has been out of action since October having taking an enforced period away from the sport to receive cancer treatment.

Blues make a total of seven changes to the starting line-up that lost to Ospreys as they hunt a winning finale on home soil this season.

Samoa international centre Isaia Tuifua is called up to join forces with Cory Allen in midfield while Chris Czekaj is named on the wing. Harry Robinson misses the game after picking up an ankle injury against Ospreys.

Loosehead prop Tom Court will make his 150th appearance for Ulster. Court starts in the front-row alongside hooker Rob Herring and tighthead prop John Afoa.

Johann Muller captains Ulster in the second-row where he is joined by Dan Tuohy, who makes his first start since breaking his arm playing for Ireland in February.

Stephen Ferris is picked at blindside, with Nick Williams named at number eight and Chris Henry, who is playing his first game for Ulster since winning the Six Nations with Ireland, selected at openside.

Andrew Trimble, also back for Ulster after Ireland's Six Nations win, starts on the left. Michael Heaney continues at scrum-half in place of the injured Ruan Pienaar.

Zebre v Dragons

Zebre have been boosted by the return of their Italian internationals alongside experienced stalwarts like Salvatore Perugini and former All Black Brendon Leonard against the Dragons.

After a week of rest Italy's backs Leonardo Sarto, Gonzalo Garcia and Luciano Orquera are back into Zebre's starting line-up along with lock Quintin Geldenhuys - one of the only three Azzurri who played all the 400 minutes of the last Six Nations.

The lock forward will strengthen the Zebre pack who will face a strong battle as the Dragons want to banish the memory of their bad scrum and maul performances against Connacht last time out.

Dragons director of rugby Lyn Jones has made seven changes to his side for this encounter. Dan Evans retains his place at full-back and is joined in the back three by Welsh internationals Tom Prydie and Will Harries.

The centre pairing is all change as it gets a facelift with Pat Leach and Ashley Smith, as Ross Wardle is left out of selection and Jack Dixon is moved to the bench. Fly-half Jason Tovey remains in at number ten and Richie Rees also retains his place as scrum-half.

Treviso v Edinburgh

Edinburgh welcome the return of three Scotland internationals to their starting XV for Saturday's clash at Stadio Monigo.

David Denton (back-row), Matt Scott (centre) and Alasdair Dickinson (prop) - the latter withdrawn before last weekend's loss against Ulster - are all set to start the match in Italy, as three of four personnel changes to the side.

The trio replace the injured Mike Coman (neck strain), Sam Beard and Wicus Blaauw respectively while the season-ending hand injury to wing Dougie Fife brings about a back division shuffle.

Jack Cuthbert moves to the wing to replace Fife, allowing Carl Bezuidenhout to move to full-back to accommodate Harry Leonard, who starts at fly-half.

Treviso skipper Antonio Pavanello will rack up his 200th appearance in the second-row, partnered by Corniel van Zyl. Cornell du Preez will line up against Denton with Manoa Vosawai named on the blindside flank and Robert Barbieri at number eight.

Exciting Italian internationals Michele Campagnaro and Angelo Esposito announced their presence on the Test scene during the Six Nations; both line up to take on the Scots on Saturday in their familiar outside centre and wing positions respectively.

Experienced full-back Luke McLean starts, with the half-back combination of Tobias Botes and James Ambrosini given a shot.

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