INSEPARABLE comrades one week and mortal enemies the next.
Welcome to the world of professional rugby.
Looking in from the outside it's great, playing the game you love and getting paid to do it. Yet there are so many demanding circumstances to overcome as a result.
When you become a player deemed good enough to play professional sport, there are so many aspects to deal with that you never thought would affect you. And the higher you climb on the ladder of success, the heavier the weight of expectation becomes.
Scrutiny by the masses, trial by media, loss of form, injury and the constant worry about your contract expiration date are just some of the demons you deal with on a daily basis. In many respects, you end up losing your right to anonymity and become the property of the public.
I guess all these facets of life come with the trials and tribulations of playing sport to earn a crust. However, there is one element that always baffled me as a competitor and still does to this day: playing against a player you would have died to protect one week before being expected to do everything in your power to make their life a complete misery the next.
Countless hours of video analysis, gut-wrenching fitness sessions, strategic scheming, rehabilitation and gruelling physio sessions are just some of the tasks they would have undergone as teammates in planning the downfall of all their Six Nations opponents.
Players such as Conor Murray and Johnny Sexton, Peter O’Mahony and Josh van der Flier, Tadhg Furlong and Tadhg Beirne, Keith Earls and Hugo Keenan will have eaten, drank, trained and roomed with each other with a view to making the green jersey they wear on their backs a stronger symbol within the rugby community.
Now such is the nature of their chosen profession, they will be asked to tear shreds out of each other as the masters they serve on this occasion have a very different agenda to fulfill.
Don’t be fooled for one minute when you hear Leo Cullen or Johann van Graan tell you that they are only too happy to see their players getting called up to the national squad.
Underneath Cullen’s mannerly veneer and van Graan’s boyish persona lies a very gluttonous trait that people in their shoes simply must have. When you consider they are fully reliant on the fitness levels of their players to determine their results, why would they want them burning themselves out at the highest level the game commands?
It’s like asking turkeys to vote in favour of Christmas.
Up to last week’s final round of Guinness Pro 14 pool games, I would have really fancied Munster to turn the tide of suffering against their nearest and dearest rivals and leave the capital with their first bit of silverware in twelve years.
Three wins from the last 15 attempts against the chaps from D4 is a record that no side would want publicised. Yet facts don’t lie, and Leinster have been the trailblazers in Irish rugby for well over a decade now.
I am a firm believer that momentum is a key factor in any side's drive for success. However, when your wheels suddenly become undone as Leinster’s did last weekend against the Ospreys, it can act as a timely reminder that you are not bulletproof and reignites the parts of your brain that promotes fear.
Arrogance has been the downfall of many a side and while Cullen and his coaching ticket are far too clever to be cocky, I do think some of their players are walking a very narrow line and this is why the loss last week is probably the best thing that could have happened for them. It has brought them back down to earth and given them a good kick in the ass.
I guess the RDS is not quite the fortress they thought it was.
The return of Joey Carbery to the playing surface is not only great for Munster but for the man himself and whether he starts on the bench or is handed the number ten jersey from the off, his contribution in this game will play a big part in determining the victors.
The loss of Will Connors, Gary Ringrose and especially James Ryan for Leinster is a big issue for Cullen. While they have an incredible amount of dept in their squad, it isn’t always that easy to replace the cream.
This game is teed up perfectly for Munster and the law of averages is pointing towards red.
Let's just hope and pray that Munster stay loyal to their traditions and when the need arises, that theyand not forget about their fallen soldiers.
Munster by a score.