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British & Irish Cup: Semi-Final Preview

British & Irish Cup: Semi-Final Preview

The first of this weekend’s British & Irish Cup semi-finals is a fascinating Irish derby between Munster and Ulster Ravens, with the match being part of a double header at Thomond Park on Saturday (kick-off 3.30pm).

The opening British & Irish Cup semi-final is sure to be a great game as Munster, with the best defensive record in this competition, take on an Ulster side who hold the best attacking record with 22 tries.

The interprovincial clash will also act as a curtain raiser to Munster’s Magners League game against the Ospreys at Thomond Park.

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Tickets purchased for the Magners League game will allow supporters attend both matches, with more details here.

The winners of the Munster v Ulster Ravens tie will face the Cornish Pirates or Doncaster Knights, who face each other on Sunday.

The final of the inaugural British & Irish Cup has been scheduled for Sunday, May 16 (kick-off 6pm, live on Sky Sports). The venue will be either the Recreation Ground in Camborne or Castle Park in Doncaster.


Saturday, April 24 –

MUNSTER v ULSTER RAVENS, Thomond Park, 3.30pm

British & Irish Cup Current Form – Munster: WWWWW; Ulster Ravens: WWDWW 
British & Irish Cup Top Scorers – Munster: Points: Declan Cusack 39; Tries: Danny Barnes, Dave Kilcoyne, Tom Gleeson 2 each; Ulster Ravens: Points: Niall O’Connor 50; Tries: Tommy Seymour 4

Munster Results – Coventry 13 Munster 20, Butts Stadium; Munster 18 Bristol 6, Nenagh Ormond RFC; Munster 18 Nottingham 3, Waterford RSC; Neath 12 Munster 21, the Gnoll; Munster 34 Heriot’s 7, Musgrave Park

Ulster Ravens Results – Ulster Ravens 29 Bedford Blues 3, Ravenhill; Moseley 21 Ulster Ravens 32, Billesley Common; Llanelli 21 Ulster Ravens 21, Parc y Scarlets; Ulster Ravens 21 London Welsh 17, Ravenhill; Ulster Ravens 62 Aberavon 0, Ravenhill 

Preview/Team News: Munster reached the semi-finals of the inaugural British & Irish Cup with a perfect played five, won five record from their Pool B matches, beating Bristol (18-6), Nottingham (18-3) and Heriot’s (34-7) at home, and being victorious on the road at Coventry (20-13) and at Neath (21-12).

The Munstermen, coached by Anthony Foley and Ian Costello, concluded the pool phase with the best defensive record, having conceded just three tries in 400 minutes’ playing time.

Ulster Ravens topped Pool C with an unbeaten won 4, drawn 1 record. The Ravens attained victories at Ravenhill against Bedford (29-3), London Welsh (21-17) and Aberavon (62-0), and also won at Moseley (32-21) and drew at Llanelli (21-all).

The Ulster side, coached by Neil Doak and Jeremy Davidson with Gary Longwell as manager, finished the pools with the best attacking record, having scored 22 tries and a total of 165 points in their five matches.

Munster have already beaten Ulster Ravens twice this season – 28-11 at Shaw’s Bridge in Belfast on September 24 and 30-8 in the return at Cork’s Musgrave Park on November 6.

Six players who helped Munster beat Connacht in the Magners League last weekend have been included in Anthony Foley’s British & Irish Cup side for Saturday’s semi-final clash.

Forwards Dave Ryan, Dave Foley and Peter O’Mahony and backs Declan Cusack, Jeremy Manning and Danny Barnes all featured for Munster in the 18-12 win over Connacht.

For Saturday’s semi-final, Munster coach Foley has opted for the wily Mossie Lawlor to man the last line of defence. Lawlor, the current captain of Shannon, won 69 senior caps for Munster.

Eoghan Grace returns to the side having limped out injured when Connacht visited Limerick in February and he links up with Tommy O’Donnell and team captain O’Mahony in what looks a potent back row.

Duncan Williams and Cusack maintain a half-back partnership that has served their side so well in this cross-border competition, while Sean Scanlon, an unused replacement last Sunday, and Barnes have the sort of pace to stretch the Ulster Ravens defence.

Commenting on Saturday’s interprovincial derby, Ravens boss Neil Doak said: “Training has been going really well this week. We all know the experience Munster have. They have a big squad that they can rotate, which feeds into their ‘A’ team.

“It is always hard travelling to Thomond Park to play Munster. With the British & Irish Cup game being played before the Munster v Ospreys Magners League fixture, there should be a great atmosphere for the players.

“This is the younger players’ chance to shine on a big stage. If we perform well and do the basics well, we have a good chance.”

Ulster and Ireland Wolfhounds hooker Nigel Brady will captain the Ravens side on Saturday.

Ulster’s resources will be tested by two big games over the weekend, the second of which is the senior side’s Magners League trip to Edinburgh on Sunday.

Interestingly, Doak’s selection includes seven players from the Queen’s University side that topped AIB League Division 3 in fine style.

Queen’s half-backs James McKinney and Ian Porter are a talented pair, while full-back David McIlwaine, centre Jonny Shiels and lock Andrew Linton all touched down for the Belfast students in their Division 3 semi-final win over Banbridge last Saturday.

Brady and Declan Fitzpatrick add some experience in the Ravens front row, with Chris Cochrane and top try scorer Tommy Seymour offering plenty of pace on the wings.

American international Scott La Valla, who will captain Dublin University next season, will get another chance to impress the Ulster management – this time off the base of the Ravens scrum.

MUNSTER: Mossie Lawlor (Shannon); Ronan O’Mahony (Garryowen), Danny Barnes (Dolphin), Jeremy Manning (Cork Constitution), Sean Scanlon (UCC); Declan Cusack (Thomond), Duncan Williams (Cork Constitution); Dave Ryan (Dolphin), Mike Sherry (Garryowen), Stephen Archer (Cork Constitution), Dave Foley (UL Bohemians), Ian Nagle (Cork Constitution), Tommy O’Donnell (UL Bohemians), Eoghan Grace (Shannon), Peter O’Mahony (Cork Constitution) (capt).

Replacements: Dave Kilcoyne (UL Bohemians), Sean Henry (UL Bohemians), David O’Callaghan (UCC), Paddy Butler (Shannon), Conor Murray (Garryowen), Mike Kelliher (Richmond), Luke O’Dea (Shannon).

ULSTER RAVENS: David McIlwaine (Queen’s University); Chris Cochrane (Dungannon), Michael Allen (Belfast Harlequins), Jonny Shiels (Queen’s University), Tommy Seymour (Ballymena); James McKinney (Queen’s University), Ian Porter (Queen’s University); Paddy McAllister (Ballynahinch), Nigel Brady (Dungannon) (capt), Declan Fitzpatrick (Dungannon), Andrew Linton (Queen’s University), Neil McComb (Belfast Harlequins), Ali Birch (Dungannon), Stephen Dougall (Malone), Scott La Valla (Dublin University).

Replacements: Niall Annett (Belfast Harlequins), Paul Karayiannis (Queen’s University), Neville Magee (Dungannon), Stuart McKenzie (Dungannon), Michael Pyper (Queen’s University), Luke Marshall (Ballymena), Craig Gilroy (Dungannon).

Referee: Dudley Phillips (Ireland)