Connacht Rugby have announced the side that will face Munster this St Stephens Day in Thomond Park (7.45pm) with only one change from the side that lost to Gloucester last week.
Tongan international winger Fetu’u Vainikolo replaces Mark McCrea on the wing as McCrea was forced to retire from last weekend’s clash with a strained hamstring giving the new arrival a berth in the starting XV.
Thomond Park has not been a happy hunting ground for Connacht in recent years but, following spirited back-to-back displays against Aviva Premiership giants Gloucester, the squad know that if they continue to perform at that level, their ten game losing streak will end sooner rather than later.
John Hayes will make his 217th cap and final game for Munster and he’s joined in the two-hundred club by his front-row partner Marcus Horan, who will make his 200th cap. Only four players have retained their places from last weekends dour win over the Scarlets as a host of first team regulars are rested.
As for Connacht, a clash with Leinster follows the Munster game, and Elwood is all too aware they must take one game at a time but they will once again leave no stone unturned in search of a victory.
“Obviously Munster is going to be a huge, huge task for us,” says coach Elwood.
“History tells us we haven’t won down there for a long time, and they are going very well. “They are a good side, we know that. No matter what side goes out wearing the red jersey it’s going to be a difficult task
“The key for us is that I want the lads to believe in what we are doing and take the positives from our performance against Gloucester.”
“I did not have to say anything after that game, the players said it themselves – they were gutted.
(15-9) Gavin Duffy (C), Fetu’u Vainikolo, Eoin Griffin, Dave McSharry, Tiernan O’Halloran, Niall O’Connor, Frank Murphy
(1-8) Brett Wilkinson, Ethienne Reynecke, Ronan Loughney, George Naoupu, Mike McCarth, Dave Gannon, Johnny O’Connor, John Muldoon
(16-23) Adrian Flavin, Dylan Rogers, Rodney Ah You, Mick Kearney, Eoin McKeon, Paul O’Donohoe, Matthew Jarvis, Kyle Tonetti