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Magners Preview: Connacht v Munster

Magners Preview: Connacht v Munster

Connacht will be looking to rewrite over 20 years of Interprovincial history on Friday night and claim a long-awaited success over Munster who, with a game in hand over the leaders, are still in contention for the Magners League title.

MAGNERS LEAGUE: Friday, March 28

CONNACHT v MUNSTER, The Sportsground, 7.30pm (live Setanta Sports 2/deferred coverage Setanta Sports Ireland)

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Team News: Connacht coach Michael Bradley has made three changes to his side, as well as three positional switches, for the province’s Magners League derby clash with Munster at the Sportsground.

Andy Dunne starts at out-half in a reshuffled back-line, which sees Keith Matthews move to inside centre, Mel Deane move to outside centre and Matt Mostyn has switched to the right wing.

In the forwards, Brett Wilkinson starts once again at loosehead prop and David Gannon starts alongside captain Andrew Farley in the second row for the first time since January.

Ireland flanker Johnny O’Connor, who picked up a knee injury in last Friday’s defeat at Edinburgh, has been passed fit to play and his presence in the team is vital, given that Michael McCarthy is suspended and his fellow back rowers Ray Ofisa (arm) and Michael Swift (kidney) are still out injured.

Dunne’s half-back partner for the Munster game, Conor O’Loughlin, is nursing a hip injury but is expected to start after undergoing a fitness test.

Australian out-half Tim Donnelly damaged his shoulder when scoring a try against Edinburgh so with Dunne starting at number 10, Connemara clubman Troy Nathan has retained his place on the bench.

Last weekend was a busy one for New Zealander Nathan as he came on to replace Donnelly and make his Magners League debut at Murrayfield and he also played for Connemara in their AIB League Division Three game against County Carlow the following day.

Meanwhile, flanker David Wallace and winger Ian Dowling both return to the Munster team for Friday’s Magners League encounter with Connacht.

Wallace missed Munster’s 42-6 win over Ulster last Saturday because of a leg injury picked up in Ireland’s final Six Nations match against England the previous weekend.

Dowling has recovered from the stomach bug which forced him to withdraw from the Munster side just hours before the Ulster game at Musgrave Park.

The other players who missed out last day because of injury – back rower Denis Leamy and Rua Tipoki – have both named on a nine-strong bench.

A decision on their participation will be taken tomorrow morning and there is a vacancy left in the centre pending that decision. Tipoki has been nursing a back injury, while Leamy injured his shoulder early on in Ireland’s recent defeat to England.

Apart from the midfield vacancy, Munster coach Declan Kidney has made six confirmed changes to the side that started against Ulster.

There are three alterations in the back-line with Dowling coming in for Brian Carney and there are direct swaps at half-back with Paul Warwick and Peter Stringer preferred to Ronan O’Gara and Tomas O’Leary, two try scorers last time out who drop to the bench.

Tony Buckley, who also touched down against Ulster, moves to the loosehead side of the scrum as John Hayes returns in place of Marcus Horan.

Munster captain Paul O’Connell makes way for his international colleague Donncha O’Callaghan in the second row, while Niall Ronan seems hard done by, given his man-of-the-match performance last Saturday, as he loses out due to the return of Wallace.

The 195-times capped Anthony Foley, whose testimonial details were announced earlier this week, will captain the men in red in Galway.

CONNACHT: Gavin Duffy; Matt Mostyn, Mel Deane, Keith Matthews, Daniel Riordan; Andy Dunne, Conor O’Loughlin; Brett Wilkinson, Adrian Flavin, Robbie Morris, David Gannon, Andrew Farley (capt), John Muldoon, Johnny O’Connor, Colm Rigney.

Replacements: John Fogarty, Brian McGovern, Andrew Browne, Liam Casserly, Conor McPhillips, Troy Nathan, Darren Yapp.

MUNSTER: Denis Hurley; Doug Howlett, Lifeimi Mafi, AN Other, Ian Dowling; Paul Warwick, Peter Stringer; Tony Buckley, Jerry Flannery, John Hayes, Donncha O’Callaghan, Mick O’Driscoll, Alan Quinlan, David Wallace, Anthony Foley (capt).

Replacements: Frankie Sheahan, Marcus Horan, Paul O’Connell, Donnacha Ryan/Denis Leamy, Tomas O’Leary, Ronan O’Gara, Kieran Lewis/Rua Tipoki.

Referee: Simon McDowell (Ireland)

Say What: Michael Bradley (Connacht) – “Connacht always look forward to the home derby matches in particular because the Sportsground sells out and the crowd get behind the team, which seems to raise our performances in those matches.

“Obviously we have to do that with Munster on a bit of a charge at the moment in trying to catch Leinster at the top of the Magners League.

“Munster tend to play a forward orientated game which will represent a different challenge to what Edinburgh offered us last week.

“Our first job is to contend with their power up front, once that’s done I’m quite confident with home advantage and the closeness of previous games, if we create enough opportunities we’ll have a good chance of winning the game.”

Declan Kidney (Munster)“David (Wallace) and Denis (Leamy) took a full part in training and so we’ll just wait and see how they react to that before finalising our squad. Ian (Dowling) is fully recovered from a stomach bug and we would be hopeful that Rua (Tipoki) can take some part in the game.

“Derbies have a life of their own. Relative league positions often count for little and you only have to look at our games (with Connacht) in the past to know that.

“We had to come from behind to win in Galway last year and there have been a couple of 3-0 wins, so that says it all and we are expecting more of the same this time.

“The Sportsground is never an easy place to get anything out of. Leinster needed a late converted try to win there last time so we know exactly what we’re up against.”

Top Scorers: 2007/08 Magners League – Points: Connacht: Tim Donnelly 82; Munster: Paul Warwick 89; Tries: Connacht: Robbie Morris, Conor O’Loughlin 2 each; Munster: Paul Warwick, Denis Leamy, Donnacha Ryan, Tony Buckley 2 each.


Tuesday, August 28, 2001 – Munster 40 Connacht 19, Thomond Park
Friday, November 29, 2002 – Quarter-Final – Munster 33 Connacht 3, Musgrave Park
Friday, January 2, 2004 – Connacht 0 Munster 3, Dubarry Park
Friday, May 7, 2004 – Munster 39 Connacht 10, Thomond Park
Saturday, September 11, 2004 – Munster 27 Connacht 27, Musgrave Park
Monday, December 27, 2004 – Connacht 0 Munster 3, The Sportsground
Saturday, October 1, 2005 – Connacht 19 Munster 44, The Sportsground
Tuesday, December 27, 2005 – Munster 36 Connacht 17, Thomond Park
Sunday, December 3, 2006 – Munster 13 Connacht 0, Thomond Park
Sunday, December 31, 2006 – Connacht 8 Munster 14, The Sportsground
Thursday, December 27, 2007 – Munster 17 Connacht 0, Musgrave Park


– Connacht have lost their last three matches in the Magners League since a 20-18 victory at home to the Scarlets on January 4

– Connacht have won just one of their last 24 games against fellow Irish provinces since March 2004 – they were 22-12 victors over Ulster in Galway on New Year’s Eve 2005

– Munster have won three of their last four games in the Magners League. Munster have also won six of their last seven encounters against fellow Irish provinces

– Connacht have not beaten Munster since an 11-9 victory at Musgrave Park in the Irish Interprovincial championship on November 22, 1986