Connacht v Munster – Preview and Team News – Start time 7:35pm Saturday
Connacht v Munster
Guinness PRO14, Conference A, Round 13
The Sportsground, Galway @3:00pm, Saturday 5th January 2019
Both Connacht and Munster recorded impressive wins last weekend. Andy Friend’s Connacht bounced back from their heartbreaking last-gasp defeat to Leinster with a good win over Ulster. However, it was Munster’s tetchy win over an indisciplined Leinster side grabbed the majority of the headlines.
As it stands it’s 3rd v 2nd in Conference A. Connacht have the chance to leapfrog Munster in the first in Conference Inter-Pro of the season. Connacht sit on 36 points, just three behind Munster who have 39 points. Connacht have impressed in the last two months and have won seven out of their last eight games, the only blip was that defeat at the R.D.S.
Munster, on the other hand, have been having a Jekyll and Hyde season. They’ve won all eight home games this season (six in the PRO14 and two in Europe), however, their record on the road reads two wins, one draw and five defeats. Johann Van Graan will be eager to improve the away form of his side, he will also have one eye on the following week’s trip to Kingsholm to face Gloucester.
This is reflected in the strength of the Munster side he has named this week. Chris Farrell returns from injury to start alongside Dan Goggin in the centre. The half-back pairing sees Alby Mathewson and Joey Carbery team up, while Conor Murray and Tyler Bleyendaal provide cover from a strong Munster bench. Keith Earls, Alex Wootton and Andrew Conway should provide a strong counter-attacking back three.
The Munster pack welcomes back captain Peter O’Mahoney, who combines with Tommy O’Donnell and Arno Botha in the back row. Jeremy Loughman is the only change in the front row from the Leinster game last week as he comes into the side in place of Dave Kilcoyne who drops to the bench, Niall Scannell and John Ryan are retained. Jean Kleyn and Tadhg Beirne continue as the second-row pairing.
Andy Friend shuffles his pack for this game, making six changes from the side that defeated Ulster 21-12 last time out. Both Bundee Aki and Jarrad Butler are carrying slight knocks after the Ulster game, while there is a new centre pairing as loan signing from Leinster, Tom Daly, makes his first start for the province alongside Tom Farrell. In the pack Denis Buckley starts again, Dave Heffernan comes in at hooker, to captain the side, in place of Shane Delahunt and Dominic Robertson-McCoy starts in place of Conor Carey. No change in the second row as Gavin Thornbury and Quinn Roux pair up again. Paul Boyle comes in for Seán O’Brien alongside last weeks man of the match Colby Fainga’a and Eoghan Masterson comes in for the injured Butler.
Caolin Blade and Jack Carty continue as the half-backs, and Matt Healy returns from injury to take his place on the wing. Cian Kelleher will be relieved to get another chance to show his worth after a mixed performance last week, he made a couple of line breaks, but blotted his copybook with a costly error that lead to Angus Kernohan’s try as he failed to gather a cross field kick, that bounced off his head and fell to the waiting arms of Kernohan. Darragh Leader once again is named at full-back.