The changed format in this season’s British & Irish Cup, whereby two teams emerge from each pool, makes Munster’s task of making the knockout stages somewhat easier as they head for England tomorrow morning for the game against Bristol at the Memorial Stadium on Sunday (kick-off 3pm).
For Sunday’s Pool B game, Munster will be without Ireland international Donnacha Ryan, who is in Munster’s Heineken Cup matchday squad, but his loss is compensated for by the return of Ian Nagle who missed last weekend’s win in Melrose through illness.
Niall Ronan and Academy player Simon Zebo also join the squad for this weekend’s tie, with Kieran Essex and Troy Smith both making way.
Munster’s British & Irish Cup coach Anthony Foley makes a number of positional changes with Scott Deasy named at out-half, Sean Scanlon moving to full-back and Declan Cusack listed amongst the replacements.
Tommy O’Donnell moves to blindside flanker with Niall Ronan donning the number 7 jersey and Academy player David O’Callaghan named on the bench.
There is also one change to the front row as Stephen Archer startins in place of New Zealander Peter Borlase.
A surprise opening round defeat to Llanelli at the Waterford Regional Sports Centre put Munster, last season’s beaten finalists, under immediate pressure.
However, they responded in superb fashion to run out 47-14 winners over Melrose in Scotland last weekend, having had to come from behind.
This Sunday’s encounter will be much more demanding according to Anthony Foley, who was this week announced as the forwards coach of the O2 Ireland Wolfhounds.
“It was a tough game when we played Bristol last year in Nenagh and I’d expect much the same from them at their home ground. From here on in, it is knockout rugby, no margin for error,” he said.
“The result against Llanelli was disappointing to say the least, but in fairness the lads responded positively and last weekend played really well to get the bonus point and leave our destiny in this competition in our own hands.”
Foley of course will play a central role with the senior squad in their attempt to build on last Sunday’s Heineken Cup win over Ospreys.
He will be pitchside at the Liberty Stadium on Saturday where a Munster victory would see the Welsh side almost certainly out of the Heineken Cup and provide Foley’s charges with a timely boost.
“Of course they’ll be glued to the telly and hoping we can get a result. And yes it would be a boost, but I don’t think it’ll have a huge impact on our game in Bristol,” added Foley.
“We’ll be judged on what we do at the Memorial Stadium, nothing else and they (lads) know that.”
Commenting on his Ireland Wolfhounds appointment, he said: “I was a bit taken aback really when Eddie Wigglesworth rang me and asked me would I be interested. Interested? I’d have taken the hand off him with an offer like that!
“It’s the ambition of any young coach to coach at that level and I’m absolutely delighted and looking forward to it.”
MUNSTER (v Bristol): Sean Scanlon (Cork Constitution); Danny Barnes (Dolphin), Tom Gleeson (Cork Constitution), Ivan Dineen (Cork Constitution), Barry Murphy (UL Bohemians); Scott Deasy (Cork Constitution), Conor Murray (Garryowen); Dave Ryan (Dolphin), Sean Henry (UL Bohemians), Stephen Archer (Cork Constitution), Billy Holland (Cork Constitution) (capt), Ian Nagle (Cork Constitution), Tommy O’Donnell (UL Bohemians), Niall Ronan (Shannon), Paddy Butler (Shannon).
Replacements: Duncan Casey (Shannon), Peter Borlase (unattached), Dave Foley (UL Bohemians), David O’Callaghan (Dolphin), Cathal Sheridan (UL Bohemians), Declan Cusack (Garryowen), Simon Zebo (Cork Constitution).