The Connacht team to play Munster in Sunday’s Magners League derby tie at the Sportsground (kick-off 5.05pm) has been selected.
The Connacht team shows one change to the one which started against Bourgoin in last weekend’s Amlin Challenge Cup quarter-final, with Bernie Upton starting in the second row and Michael McCarthy reverting to the bench.
Connacht may still be bottom of the Magners League but they have struck up a rich vein of form in recent weeks, culminating in last Saturday’s superb Amlin Challenge Cup quarter-final win over Bourgoin.
Head coach Michael Bradley has been pleased with what he has seen from the players and more of the same will be required if they are to extended their unbeaten home run to nine matches this weekend.
“The most important thing is there is a lot of confidence and there is a good reason. It’s mainly due to the fact that the side is maturing, taking responsibility, that’s what happens when sides evolve,” he said.
Last season saw Connacht make history as they beat Munster for the first time since 1986, and they will be doubly determined to be victorious on Sunday as they look to close the gap on eighth-placed Ulster.
As the two provinces battle it out to gain Heineken Cup qualifications, Bradley’s charges are now just four points behind Brian McLaughlin’s Ulster side and have the benefit of a game-in-hand – they host Leinster in their refixed clash next Wednesday.
Bradley added: “Ulster will have played two matches before we play Munster, so down the way we know what requirements are necessary and whether it’s possible or not to catch them in the Magners, and that will have a probably have a bearing on the approach.
“But aside from that, when we talk about playing Munster or Leinster at home, these matches in themselves are massive for us, and there will be no issue in terms of motivation.
“We look forward to it as an individual challenge, and again, as a means to an end in terms of a result in the season.
“You judge yourself by Ulster, Leinster and Munster matches. We did not do well against Ulster here earlier in the season, losing 30-6, and have to start picking up derby matches – beginning with Sunday’s game.
“Over the years there is a growing respect from Munster and having beaten them last year, it is something they were not happy with. But we are playing better than last year, and it’s a great opportunity to turn them over again.
“We go into the match with confidence in that we have an effective game-plan that can beat Munster.”
CONNACHT (v Munster): Gavin Duffy; Troy Nathan, Niva Ta’auso, Keith Matthews, Fionn Carr; Ian Keatley, Frank Murphy; Brett Wilkinson, Sean Cronin, Jamie Hagan, Michael Swift, Bernie Upton, John Muldoon (capt), Johnny O’Connor, George Naoupu.
Replacements: Adrian Flavin, Ronan Loughney, Michael McCarthy, Mike McComish, Conor O’Loughlin, Miah Nikora, Aidan Wynne.