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Gallagher Returns At Full-Back For In-Form Munster

Gallagher Returns At Full-Back For In-Form Munster

Irish-qualified outside back Matt Gallagher has scored two tries in six appearances so far for Munster ©INPHO/Billy Stickland

The Munster team selected to host Connacht at Thomond Park on Friday (kick-off 6pm) shows nine changes to the side that defeated Ulster last week.

As they look to make it three derby wins on the trot in the Guinness PRO14 Rainbow Cup, the Reds make nine changes to the starting XV.

The fit-again Matt Gallagher, Damian de Allende, Ben Healy, Craig Casey, James Cronin, Rhys Marshall, Jean Kleyn, Billy Holland and CJ Stander all come into the side.

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Gallagher makes his first start since injuring his shoulder against Zebre in November. The 21-year-old is named at full-back having made his return to action off the bench in March.

Wingers Andrew Conway, who ran in the sixth and final try against Ulster, and Shane Daly are retained. De Allende joins Dan Goggin in the centre.

Academy out-half Ben Healy, who turns 22 next month, starts on his 17th appearance of the season with Casey also resuming at scrum half.

Cronin, Marshall and John Ryan form the front row trio this week, with the retiring Billy Holland making his 246th Munster appearance at lock alongside Jean Kleyn.

Captain Peter O’Mahony has Stander and Gavin Coombes for company in the back row, while Conor Murray is in line to make his 150th Munster appearance off the bench.

Jack O’Donoghue, Joey Carbery, who kicked 10 points in the recent victory over Leinster, and Keith Earls provide additional firepower among the replacements.

Speaking about Munster’s progress in the new competition, head coach Johann van Graan said: “It’s nice to get a complete performance (with reference to last week’s win over Ulster). We converted our opportunities.

“I thought our breakdown work was excellent on both sides of the ball. That’s a big part of our DNA and something that we will keep going back to. I thought some of our phase attacks and options were very, very good.

“The one thing that we shouldn’t miss (singling out) if you look at our last two games is our defence. We conceded three points against Leinster and 10 versus Ulster.

“Against two sides that won 14 out of 16 matches in the league phase the same as ourselves, so we conceded 13 points in the last 160 minutes. There is a lot to be positive about.”

MUNSTER (v Connacht): Matt Gallagher; Andrew Conway, Dan Goggin, Damian de Allende, Shane Daly; Ben Healy, Craig Casey; James Cronin, Rhys Marshall, John Ryan, Jean Kleyn, Billy Holland, Gavin Coombes, Peter O’Mahony (capt), CJ Stander.

Replacements: Niall Scannell, Dave Kilcoyne, Stephen Archer, Tadhg Beirne, Jack O’Donoghue, Conor Murray, Joey Carbery, Keith Earls.