Pat Lam has named a 26-man squad to face Munster in Connacht’s third and final pre-season clash before the start of the GUINNESS PRO12 in two weeks’ time. The Thomond Park fixture kicks off at 7.45pm on Friday night, the same day that the Connacht Sevens side, coached by Conor McPhillips, will compete in the Limerick World Club Sevens tournament.
Pat Lam has made eight changes to the Connacht team that started against Castres Olympique in France last week with Ireland international Kieran Marmion named in the number 9 shirt. Out-half Jack Carty is also reintroduced to complete the half-back pairing. Connacht’s top try scorer from last season, Matt Healy, is named on the left wing.
Up front, John Muldoon returns to captain the side, while Ultan Dillane and Andrew Browne make up a new second row partnership. JP Cooney and Tom McCartney come into the front row to join last week’s try scorer, Rodney Ah You.
Tighthead prop Nathan White, who made his debut for Ireland against Scotland last weekend, is included among the replacements.
Commenting on the team selection and the interprovincial clash, head coach Lam said: “We’ve played two tough games against French opposition and nearly everyone has had time to get rid of the pre-season rustiness. Competition is fierce for places which is what we want as coaches.
“Along with the guys in the Sevens set-up this weekend, we see the Munster game as an excellent opportunity to test ourselves against a strong side away from home.”
Meanwhile, Munster boss Anthony Foley has selected his side to play Connacht, with hooker Mike Sherry named to start for the first time since November 2013.
Sidelined for 21 months, Sherry has undergone an extended period of rehabilitation and recovery due to an initial knee injury and recurring shoulder issues that have ruled him out until now.
It is with great relief to see Sherry, a player who ‘did think the shoulder would be career threatening at times’, involved in Munster’s pre-season programme and named in Friday’s matchday squad. The Limerick man will scrum down with returning Emerging Ireland duo James Cronin and Stephen Archer in the front row.
With Foley rotating the players available to him, Dave Foley is the only forward to retain his starting place this week. He is joined by Academy lock Sean McCarthy in the second row.
Back rower Dave O’Callaghan is another returning from injury after successfully rehabbing a knee injury sustained in April. He will link up with last year’s Academy Player of the Year Jack O’Donoghue and the province’s Senior Player of the Year CJ Stander, who takes on the captaincy role for the first time.
The final personnel changes see Ian Keatley and Duncan Williams feature at half-back and new signing Shane Monahan makes his first Munster appearance on the right wing. Gerhard van den Heever, Matt D’Arcy, Cian Bohane and David Johnston are all retained in the back-line.
Munster supporters will be excited at the prospect of seeing New Zealander Francis Saili in action if he is sprung from the bench on Friday. The All Black arrived at the end of July and is included in his first Munster squad.
Following on from his successful Munster debut last week, the 18-year-old out-half Bill Johnston is once again named on the bench in a week that saw him receive his CAO offer of International Business in UL.
On the injury front, it has been confirmed that Denis Hurley has sustained ankle ligament damage. He will continue to be assessed by the Munster medical team but is expected to be sidelined for approximately eight to ten weeks.
The Connacht v Munster pre-season match will take place as part of the Limerick World Club Sevens tournament at Thomond Park. On Friday, two adults can enjoy Sevens and 15-a-side action for the price of one. Click here to avail of this great offer. Please note, you must select ‘2 for 1 Offer Adult Ticket’ once you click through.
CONNACHT: Darragh Leader; Tiernan O’Halloran, Rory Parata, Bundee Aki, Matt Healy; Jack Carty, Kieran Marmion; JP Cooney, Tom McCartney, Rodney Ah You, Ultan Dillane, Andrew Browne, John Muldoon (capt), Nepia Fox-Matamua, Eoghan Masterson.
Replacements: Finlay Bealham, Dave Heffernan, Nathan White, Quinn Roux, Ben Marshall, Eoin McKeon, George Naoupu, John Cooney, Craig Ronaldson, Danie Poolman, Dave McSharry.
MUNSTER: David Johnston; Shane Monahan, Cian Bohane, Matt D’Arcy, Gerhard van den Heever; Ian Keatley, Duncan Williams; James Cronin, Mike Sherry, Stephen Archer, Sean McCarthy, Dave Foley, Dave O’Callaghan, Jack O’Donoghue, CJ Stander (capt).
Replacements: Kevin O’Byrne, John Ryan, BJ Botha, Donncha O’Callaghan, Shane Buckley, Cathal Sheridan, Bill Johnston, Francis Saili, Niall Scannell, John Madigan, Jordan Coghlan, Stephen Fitzgerald.