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Celtic League: Week 12 Preview

Celtic League: Week 12 Preview

All four provinces are back in Celtic League action this weekend, and will be hoping for morale-boosting wins ahead of their inter-pro meetings over the festive period.

All four provinces are back in Celtic League action this weekend, and will be hoping for morale-boosting wins ahead of their inter-pro meetings over the festive period.

Friday December 17:
Glasgow v CONNACHT, Hughenden, 7.30pm

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Connacht, having booked their place in next month’s Challenge Cup quarter-finals for the third successive season, are back on the road tomorrow night against fifth placed Glasgow.

A win of any sort would see Michael Bradley’s side rise above their hosts, and the idle Dragons – who they beat 19-14 last time out – into fourth, and perfectly poised for the visit of Munster to the Sportsground on December 27.

Bradley has made two changes from the side which lost in Montpellier last weekend. Buccaneers winger Justin Meagher is rewarded with another start, in place of Ted Robinson, and Christian Short comes back in for Pieter Myburgh in the second row.

Niall O’Brien, who replaced Connacht scrum-half Chris Keane on Ireland Sevens duty in South Africa last week, comes onto the bench, along with the returning Adrian Clarke and Tom Tierney.

CONNACHT (v Glasgow):

(15) Matt Mostyn
(14) Justin Meagher
(13) Paul Warwick
(12) James Downey
(11) Conor McPhillips
(10) Eric Elwood
(9) Chris Keane
(1) Ray Hogan
(2) Bernard Jackman
(3) Stephen Knoop
(4) Christian Short
(5) Andrew Farley (Capt)
(6) Michael Swift
(7) John Muldoon
(8) John O’Sullivan

(16) John Fogarty
(17) Adrian Clarke
(18) Pieter Myburgh
(19) Brendan O’Connor
(20) Tom Tierney
(21) Ted Robinson
(22) Niall O’Brien

ULSTER v Edinburgh, Ravenhill, 7.30pm

Ulster coach Mark McCall will be hoping to maintain a decent run of two wins from two at Ravenhill tomorrow, as they welcome Edinburgh to Belfast.

A 30-14 win over Cardiff and last Saturday’s 18-10 defeat of Heineken Cup Pool 6 leaders Stade Francais will have added impetus to his side, as they face the visiting Scots, who have won just once in their last seven outings.

Ulster lie back in ninth and should make up some much needed ground with the win. South African flanker Gavin Pfister will be given his first start, since joining last month from English Division One side Pertemps Bees.

He replaces Neil Best – who is suspended following three yellow cards in the competition – McCall has also recalled Kiwi centre Paul Steinmetz and Ireland international Tyrone Howe – who made a rare AIB League appearance for Dungannon last Saturday.

ULSTER (v Edinburgh):

(15) Bryn Cunningham
(14) Tommy Bowe
(13) Kevin Maggs
(12) Paul Steinmetz
(11) Tyrone Howe
(10) David Humphreys
(9) Kieran Campbell
(1) Ronan McCormack
(2) Paul Shields
(3) Rod Moore
(4) Gary Longwell
(5) Matt McCullough
(6) Campbell Feather (Capt)
(7) Gavin Pfister
(8) Roger Wilson

(16) Rory Best
(17) Simon Best
(18) Rowan Frost
(19) Matt Mustchin
(20) Neil Doak
(21) Adam Larkin
(22) Andrew Maxwell

Saturday December 18:
Cardiff Blues v LEINSTER, Arms Park, 5.30pm

Leinster coach Declan Kidney will hope to improve on the province’s poor record against Welsh sides – just one win in ten games – when they take on eighth-placed Cardiff on Saturday.

Ireland internationals Brian O’Driscoll and Denis Hickie will be rested for the trip to the Arms Park, with Kidney due to confirm his starting XV closer to kick-off.

With that in mind, Blackrock youngster Gary Brown will be hoping to add to his four leagues already this campaign.

Injured flanker Keith Gleeson scored a try on the last occasion Leinster won in Wales – coincidentally, in the corresponding fixture against the Blues (24-19) last December.

Leinster have already met David Young’s side this season – drawing 9-all in Donnybrook in Kidney’s first competitive game in charge in September. Half-back duo Dave McAllister (2) and Brian O’Meara combined to kick three penalty goals on the night.

LEINSTER Squad (v Cardiff):

Guy Easterby, Brian O’Meara, David Holwell, Felipe Contepomi, Gary Brown, David Quinlan, Kieran Lewis, Shane Horgan, James Norton, John McWeeney, Girvan Dempsey, AN Other.

Reggie Corrigan (Capt), Emmett Byrne, Peter Coyle, Ricky Nebbett, Shane Byrne, Gavin Hickie, Malcolm O’Kelly, Ben Gissing, Shane Jennings, Aidan McCullen, Eric Miller, Victor Costello.

MUNSTER v The Neath-Swansea Ospreys, Musgrave Park, 8.05pm

Munster coach Alan Gaffney has delayed naming his side for Saturday’s crunch top-of-the-table clash with the Ospreys, following last weekend’s bruising Heineken Cup battle with Castres.

Gaffney has presided over seven wins in-a-row in the Celtic League, and an eighth would see Munster top of the pile ahead of their trip to Connacht on December 27.

Historically, Munster have not had it their own way against the Neath-Swansea set in the Celtic League – with the Ospreys winning their first three meetings (33-26 at St Helen’s in 2003, 18-15 at Musgrave Park last February, and 34-17 four months ago at St Helen’s again), but home advantage and a buoyant Munster pack should severly test the visitors’ mettle.

But in Welsh international Gavin Henson (97 points), they do possess the league’s leading scorer. Munster’s Paul Burke, on 86, is not too far behind though.

The sides are due to meet again – for the fourth time in 11 months – at Thomond Park in Heineken Cup Pool 4, on Saturday January 8, kick-off 5.15pm.

MUNSTER (v Ospreys):
Squad to be confirmed