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Magners Preview: Connacht v Munster

Magners Preview: Connacht v Munster

It will be first against tenth at the Sportsground on Sunday as Munster look to cement their position at the top of the Magners League and hosts Connacht look to claw back some ground on their basement rivals. Both sides recorded wins last time out in Europe and with a large crowd expected, a rip-roaring derby is in the offing.

MAGNERS LEAGUE: Sunday, December 28

CONNACHT v MUNSTER, The Sportsground, 6pm (live Setanta Sports Ireland)

Team News:  John Muldoon will make his return from a calf injury when he leads out Connacht for their Magners League clash with Munster at the Sportsground on Sunday.

Sunday’s game has been sold out since before Christmas and is crucial for bottom side Connacht as they look to make up ground on their Magners League rivals.

The return of team captain Muldoon, who had been out of action since playing against Edinburgh in October, is a major boost ahead of the second interprovincial derby of the season to be played in Galway.

In all, Connacht coach Michael Bradley has made five changes to the team which beat Rugby Rovigo last time out.

Liam Bibo has recovered from a hamstring injury to start on the left wing, while recent signing Niva Ta’auso will make his first start at outside centre having recovered from an arm injury.

Up front, former Munster Academy player Sean Cronin starts at hooker and Colm Rigney also returns for the westerners at number 8.

Meanwhile, second row Mick O’Driscoll will win his 130th competitive Munster cap when he leads the province against Connacht.

O’Driscoll’s last time skippering the Munster side was against the All Blacks and on Sunday he will have only three of the pack that started that night alongside him – Federico Pucciariello, Donnacha Ryan and Niall Ronan.

But the back-line remains almost in its entirety from the one that played on that memorable November night.

Munster boss Tony McGahan has rested regular captain Paul O’Connell, Donnacha O’Callaghan, Marcus Horan, John Hayes, Tomas O’Leary and Ronan O’Gara for the interpro fixture.

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The Auckland-born Nick Williams, Munster’s latest recruit from New Zealand, could get his first taste of Magners League rugby off the replacements bench.

CONNACHT: Gavin Duffy; Troy Nathan, Niva Ta’auso, Keith Matthews, Liam Bibo; Ian Keatley, Frank Murphy; Brett Wilkinson, Sean Cronin, Robbie Morris, Mike McCarthy, Andrew Farley, John Muldoon (capt), Ray Ofisa, Colm Rigney.

Replacements (from): Adrian Flavin, Ronan Loughney, Andrew Browne, Michael Swift, Kieran Campbell, Andy Dunne, Mel Deane, Fionn Carr.

MUNSTER: Keith Earls; Doug Howlett, Barry Murphy, Lifeimi Mafi, Ian Dowling; Paul Warwick, Peter Stringer; Federico Pucciariello, Jerry Flannery, Tony Buckley, Mick O’Driscoll (capt), Donnacha Ryan, Alan Quinlan, Niall Ronan, David Wallace.

Replacements: Frankie Sheahan, Timmy Ryan, James Coughlan, Nick Williams, Mike Prendergast, Jeremy Manning, Denis Hurley.

Referee: Alain Rolland (Ireland)
Assistant Referees: David Wilkinson, Michael Black (both Ireland)
Television Match Official: Peter Ferguson (Ireland)

Say What: Tony McGahan (Munster) – “”There is no difference in the scale of difficulty when you play against any of the other Irish sides. They’re local debies simple as that and that gives them that extra edge.

“Playing Connacht away is every bit as tough as playing Ulster in Ravenhill or Leinster in Dublin. And we only have to remember past games down at the Sportsground to realise what we’ll be up against on Sunday.

“Last year for example, I think we were just barely ahead, a point or two, when we scored a late try that Rog (Ronan O’Gara) converted but there was nothing in it right throughout.

“It was same the year before and there a few 3-0 wins as well. This season they’ve beaten Glasgow and Leinster (here) and they are coming into this game on foot of a good Challenge Cup run so we’re under no illusions about the scale of the task we face on Sunday.”

Top Scorers: 2008/09 Magners League – Points: Connacht: Ian Keatley 44; Munster: Ronan O’Gara 44; Tries: Connacht: Fionn Carr 3; Munster: Keith Earls, Doug Howlett 4 each


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
Friday, March 28, 2008 – Connacht 5 Munster 16, The Sportsground


– Connacht won both their home and away matches against Italian side Rovigo in the European Challenge Cup recently, but in the Magners League they have lost their last two games against Edinburgh and Ulster respectively

– Connacht have already beaten an Irish province at home this season, lowering the colours of Leinster in Galway on October 5

– Table-topping Munster’s only loss in their last seven matches in the Magners League was a 22-6 defeat at Ulster on October 25. The Munstermen have won just one of their last four games against their fellow Irish provinces – an 18-0 triumph at Leinster on September 28

– Connacht have not beaten Munster since an 11-9 victory at Thomond Park in the Interprovincial Championship on November 22, 1986, and they have not beaten them in Galway since 1979

– Sunday’s match will see Connacht’s former captain Andrew Farley make his 100th start in the Magners League