New champions will be engraved on the British & Irish Cup after Munster ‘A’, competing in their second final in three years, and Cross Keys, the first Welsh side to reach the decider, meet in what is expected to be a closely-fought match in Cork.
BRITISH & IRISH CUP FINAL: Friday, April 27
MUNSTER ‘A’ v CROSS KEYS, Musgrave Park, 5.30pm (live Sky Sports 2/HD2)
Team News: Munster ‘A’ head coach Ian Costello has made four changes, including one positional switch, to the team for Friday’s British & Irish Cup final against Cross Keys.
Costello has, however, left one other position to be finalised as he waits to see if Luke O’Dea, the scorer of a cracking try in the semi-final victory over Leinster ‘A’, is fit enough to make the starting line-up.
Up front Costello opts for the experience of Stephen Archer over John Ryan in the front row, while a return to fitness sees flanker David O’Callaghan preferred to Barry O’Mahony who is named on the bench.
The half-backs remain in place but Ivan Dineen gets moved from the wing to inside centre at the expense of JJ Hanrahan, while Denis Hurley fills the left wing berth occupied by Dineen so ably in the semi-final.
Ten of the province’s starters were involved in the inaugural British & Irish Cup final back in 2010 when Munster ‘A’ were beaten 23-14 by Cornish Pirates.
Friday’s decider against Welsh side Cross Keys will be broadcast live on Sky Sports 2. Tickets for the game can be purchased here.
Meanwhile, Newport Gwent Dragons ace Jason Tovey has been parachuted into the Cross Keys’ starting line-up for the trip to Cork.
Tovey, who played youth rugby for Cross Keys, will wear the number 10 jersey for the Welsh club as their regular out-half Steffan Jones is out with a broken ankle and Dean Gunter is cup-tied as he previously played for Pontypridd in this season’s British & Irish Cup.
Cross Keys are quietly confident of claiming the scalp of Munster ‘A’. Greg Woods’ men finished sixth in the Principality Premiership and have a Swalec Cup final date with Pontypridd on May 7.
Winger Kristian Baller has impressed throughout this season’s British & Irish Cup, scoring six tries to date, and captain Robert Nash is backing his players to trouble the men in red.
“This is a great opportunity for us to go and take them on in their own backyard and we go there with nothing to lose,” he said.
MUNSTER ‘A’: Sean Scanlon; AN Other, Danny Barnes, Ivan Dineen, Denis Hurley; Scott Deasy, Duncan Williams; Dave Kilcoyne, Sean Henry, Stephen Archer, Brian Hayes, Ian Nagle, Billy Holland (capt), David O’Callaghan, Paddy Butler.
Replacements: Denis Fogarty, John Ryan, Barry O’Mahony, Brian O’Hara, Gerry Hurley, Declan Cusack, JJ Hanrahan.
CROSS KEYS: Gareth David; Kristian Baller, Leon Andrews, Phil Williams, Nathan Trowbridge; Jason Tovey, Rhys Dyer; Richard Cornock, Gerwyn Price, Marc Jones, Danny Hodge, Tom Lampard, Rhys Peebles, Robert Nash (capt), Jevon Groves.
Replacements: Lewis Rawlins, Jamie Sollis, Craig Gould, Cae Trayhern, Marc Popham, Luke Williams, Owen Jones.
Referee: James Matthew (Scotland)
Assistant Referees: Andrew Macpherson, Bob Nevins (both Scotland)
Television Match Official: Iain Heard (Scotland)
Pre-Match Quotes: Ian Costello (Munster ‘A’) – “I have great time for the British & Irish Cup because it offers a huge challenge for our players. It is a very important part of preparation for our squad.
“The first year going to Cornish Pirates for the final was a challenge in the environment they (Pirates) created and it was a big learning curve for the boys.
“Cross Keys will provide a different type of challenge. We don’t get the opportunity to play against these types of teams that often.
“Of course we play against Leinster ‘A’, and we know them very well, Ulster Ravens, they’re young, we’re young, but this gives guys a lot more experience against teams that have been around a long time.
“The team we’re playing (against in the final) will have been around longer, they’re probably an average of three or four years older, a big strong physical side, a huge pack, and they play some good rugby as well.
“Cross Keys are the type of team we have struggled against, so it will be very interesting on Friday night to see how far we have progressed.”
Greg Woods (Cross Keys) – “The animals that we have got in our side just love that underdog tag – tell them they can’t do something and they will bust a gut to do it.
“It’s a sign of respect to us and what we have achieved so far that Munster have picked a top quality side. Not many people are giving us a hope but this is one hell of an opportunity.
“We are taking on a quality side in front of a big crowd in a game that is televised live on Sky Sports. The boys are not going to let this go and will give it everything.
“I’m confident that our team will thrive in that atmosphere and we are confident that we can cause another upset.
“The semi-final win against the Pirates gave us so much belief – we dealt with the pressure and their physicality. The pace of this game will be much higher than that but the boys have just got to give it one hell of a crack.
“The first 10 minutes will be massive for us and we are excited by the challenge that is in front of us.”
Top Scorers – 2011/12 British & Irish Cup: Munster ‘A’ – Points: Scott Deasy 51; Tries: Dave Kilcoyne 2; Cross Keys – Points: Steffan Jones 49; Tries: Kristian Baller 6
ROAD TO THE FINAL:
MUNSTER ‘A’ – Pld 6, W5, D0, L1 – Pool 2: Lost 10-6 at home to Cornish Pirates; Won 23-9 away to Neath; Won 9-3 at home to Ayr; Won 29-0 away to Moseley; Quarter-final: Won 20-9 away to Ulster Ravens; Semi-final: Won 36-29 (aet) away to Leinster ‘A’
CROSS KEYS – Pld 6, W5, D0, L1 – Pool 2: Won 42-3 at home to Moseley; Won 32-7 away to Ayr; Won 45-18 at home to Neath; Lost 30-3 away to Cornish Pirates; Quarter-final: Won 32-8 at home to Llanelli; Semi-final: Won 20-16 at home to Cornish Pirates
– Former Wales international Mark Ring is Cross Keys’ backs coach. Keys ran in 15 tries and secured three try-scoring bonus points during their four pool games in this season’s competititon
– Keys became the first Welsh side to make it through to the final of competition after a 20-16 semi-final win over Cornish Pirates at Pandy Park
– Munster ‘A’ are now 80 minutes away from atoning for their defeat in the 2010 final after seeing off Leinster ‘A’ in a thrilling semi-final victory after extra-time at the RDS
– The previous two winners of the British & Irish Cup are Cornish Pirates, the inaugural champions in 2010, and Bristol, who beat Bedford Blues 17-14 in last year’s decider at the Memorial Ground