Although they are without some of the personnel that served them so superbly in Perpignan last Sunday, Munster show a strong hand for the St Stephen’s Day Magners League clash with Connacht at Thomond Park Stadium.
Nine of the side that recorded that victory in the Stade Aime Giral are absent as is Denis Leamy who suffered the disappointment of an ankle injury in the last play of the game that rules him out for at least four months.
However, the man who pulled the strings, Ronan O’Gara, leads the side on Saturday and two of the try scorers, Denis Hurley and Jean de Villiers are also included in the starting line-up while Man of the Match Paul Warwick can be called on from the bench should the need arise.
Ireland A international Felix Jones gets a run at full-back and Ian Dowling replaces Doug Howlett on the left wing.
It’s a game that provides Munster with the opportunity to get their Magners campaign back on track according to Mick O’Driscoll. “We wouldn’t be at all happy with our form in the League. Its something we’ve spoken about and need to address. This game provides not only the chance to do that but also gives lads theopportunity to put their hands up.”
After the high of last weekend the possibility of complacency won’t be an issue according to O’Driscoll. “Not all.” he says. “The changes freshen things up and brings a different impetus to the side. Connacht have done every bit as well as us in Europe these past weeks and they’ll be full of confidence. So no, we know what we’ll be up against. These game are never a gimme. Never easy.”
Meanwhile, full-back Gavin Duffy will captain a Connacht side strengthened by the return from injury of centre Keith Matthews and flanker Johnny O’Connor.
Munster: Felix Jones; Denis Hurley, Tom Gleeson, Jean de Villiers, Ian Dowling; Ronan O’Gara capt, Peter Stringer; Julien Brugnaut, Damian Varley, Tony Buckley; Mick O’Driscoll, Donnacha Ryan; Billy Holland, Niall Ronan, N Williams. Replacements: Mike Sherry, Wian du Preez, James Coughlan, Tommy O’Donnell, Duncan Williams, Paul Warwick, Scott Deasy.
Connacht: Gavin Duffy capt; Troy Nathan, Niva Ta’auso, Keith Matthews, Liam Bibo; Miah Nikora, Conor O’Loughlin; Brett Wilkinson, Adrian Flavin, Jamie Hagan; Michael Swift, Bernie Upton; Mike McComish, Johnny O’Connor, George Naoupu.
Replacements: Dermot Murphy, Ronan Loughney, Andrew Browne, Ray Ofisa, Ian Keatley, Kierran Campbell, Aidan Wynne.