Jump to main content


Celtic League Preview

Celtic League Preview

We preview the provinces ahead of this weekends Celtic League fixtures. Click here for more details.

Week ten in the Cletic League sees Munster afford All-Black full back Christian Cullen, the Celtic League’s top scorer, a rest as they entertain bottom side the Borders on a Friday night, which also sees Ulster hope for a repeat of their Heineken Cup defeat of the Cardiff Blues at Ravenhill.

Meanwhile Connacht coach Michael Bradley is awaiting a number of fitness tests ahead of his side’s trip to the Gnoll on Sunday to face league leaders the Neath-Swansea Ospreys.

Google Ad Manager – 300×250 – In Article

Friday November 19:
Munster v The Borders, Musgrave Park, 6.45pm

Having failed to figure in Ireland coach Eddie O’Sullivan’s plans this weekend, former Natal Shark Shaun Payne will deputise for eight-try Cullen, who is rested for the first time in 12 games by coach Alan Gaffney.

The 28-year-old Cullen has been a revelation for Munster in the League this autumn, bagging 43 of their 204 points and helping them into the higher reaches of the table.

Currently third, Gaffney’s charges will be seeking an eighth win-on-the-trot and the Galashiels visitors should not pose a threat.

Irish international Alan Quinlan makes a return to the side for his fifth league appearance this autumn, covering for the absent Denis Leamy. Centre Mike Mullins – who scored three tries when Ireland last met the US Eagles in June 2000 – also earns a recall with former Widnes Rugby League winger Paul Devlin replacing the injured Anthony Horgan (hamstring) on the left flank.

The Borders have not won in the competition since last March. They have delayed naming their side due to late injury worries over centre Charlie Hore and full back Gareth Morton.

Fly-half Ally Warnock is also a doubt with Stephen Cranston, Simon Danielli, Nikki Walker (all knee), and Ally Dickson and Jon Steel (both hamstring) definitely ruled out of the trip to Cork.

Munster (v The Borders):

15 – Shaun Payne
14 – Mossy Lawler
13 – Mike Mullins
12 – Rob Henderson
11 – Paul Devlin
10 – Paul Burke
9 – Eoin Reddan
1 – Frank Roche
2 – James Blaney
3 – Gordon McIlwham
4 – Trevor Hogan
5 – Tom Bowman
6 – Stephen Keogh
7 – Alan Quinlan
8 – Jim Williams

16 – Mike Storey
17 – Denis Fogarty
18 – Tom Hayes
19 – Johnny O’Connor
20 – Mike Prendergast
21 – Jason Holland
22 – Martin McPhail

Ulster v Cardiff Blues, Ravenhill, 7.30pm

Third-from-bottom Ulster will look to build on last weekend’s morale-boosting success against the Borders – their first win five games – as Cardiff visit Ravenhill for the second time this season.

Number 8 Campbell Feather will skipper Mark McCall’s side in flanker Andy Ward’s absence, and former Ireland centre McCall is happy with his decision.

“Campbell is a born leader,” he admitted. “He has got the respect of the whole squad and leads by example on the pitch.”

Feather’s one try of the season came in Ulster’s 24-37 loss to the Ospreys in September, but the 29-year-old can bank on the support of back row colleague Neil Best, who has shaken off a back injury, and talented wings Scotty Young, who comes in on the right, with Ballymena’s Andrew Maxwell switching to the left.

Veteran second row Gary Longwell is also included, with Ronan McCormack propping down for Ireland replacement Simon Best.

Recent signing Gavin Pfister provides back row cover on the bench, with the 30-year-old South African expected to see action in the second half.

Blues coach Geraint John admitted: “Ulster will be another tough test.

“We have never won at Ravenhill and although Ulster have also lost several players to the Ireland camp we know that we still have to be at our very best to have any chance.”

On the last three occasions the sides have met, the home side has triumphed.

Ireland fly-half David Humphreys famously kicked all Ulster’s point – breaking through the 400-point barrier in Europe – when they began their Heineken Cup campaign with a 21-16 defeat of the Blues in Belfast.

Ulster (v Blues):

15 – Bryn Cunningham
14 – Scott Young
13 – Jonny Bell
12 – Paul Steinmetz
11 – Andrew Maxwell

10 – Adam Larkin
9 – Kieran Campbell
1 – Ronan McCormack

2 – Paul Shields
3 – Rod Moore
4 – Gary Longwell
5 – Rowan Frost
6 – Matt McCullough
7 – Neil Best

8 – Campbell Feather (Capt).

16 – Nigel Brady
17 – Bryan Young
18 – Gary Brown
19 – Gavin Pfister
20 – Neil Doak
21 – Seamus Mallon
22 – Andrew Trimble

Sunday November 21
The Ospreys v Connacht, The Gnoll, 5.15pm

Connacht have the unenviable task of travelling to meet league leaders the Ospreys on Sunday, with a number of injury doubts hanging over the westerners.

In saying that, it did not stop them running in four tries in a 33-22 defeat of the Welsh side at St Helen’s over twelve months ago.

Michael Bradley’s side did the double over the Neath-Swansea set last season but following last week’s bye, face into four straight weeks of action – with their second leg Challenge Cup meeting with 2003 Shield winners Montpellier causing most concern early next month.

Number 8 John O’Sullivan, flanker Paul Neville, Ireland Under 21 Brendan O’Connor and summer signings Stephen Knoop and Tom Tierney are their chief doubts for the trip to Wales on Sunday.

Bradley may chose to rest Paul Warwick – scorer of 64 league points in eight outings – in the intervening and a number of other leading performers ahead of their French examinations.

Ospreys coach Lyn Jones commented: “Connacht are a team that benefit from not losing its players for long parts of the season – therefore they have excellent cohesion throughout the side.”

Jones is definitely without captain Barry Williams (head injury) and a host of Wales squad members – most notably Gavin Henson, Shane Williams and front rowers Adam and Duncan Jones, for the game which will be televised live on Setanta Ireland.

Connacht (v Ospreys):

Backs from: Mark McHugh, Tom Tierney, Matt Mostyn, Eric Elwood, Darren Yapp, James Downey, Ted Robinson, Conor McPhillips, Paul Warwick, Conor O’Loughlin, Chris Keane.
Forwards from: Peter Bracken, Ray Hogan, Dan McFarland, Bernard Jackman, John Fogarty, Stephen Knoop, Andrew Farley, Pieter Myburgh, Christian Short, Michael Swift, John O’Sullivan, Matt Lacey, Paul Neville, John Muldoon, Brendan O’Connor.