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Beirne Returns For Munster’s Clash With Connacht

Beirne Returns For Munster’s Clash With Connacht

Tadhg Beirne is congratulated after winning a turnover for Munster during last season's Guinness PRO14 Rainbow Cup campaign ©INPHO/James Crombie

Chris Cloete, last week’s player-of-the-match, is the only player retained in the Munster team to host Connacht in Saturday’s United Rugby Championship derby match at Thomond Park (kick-off 7.35pm).

With a short six-day turnaround between last Sunday’s impressive win over the Scarlets and the opening interprovincial match, 14 changes have been made to the side.

Peter O’Mahony captains the province on his 150th appearance, while 2021 British & Irish Lion Tadhg Beirne starts in the second row for his seasonal debut.

Mike Haley, a try scorer against Connacht last March, is joined in the back-three by Andrew Conway and Simon Zebo, who gets his first taste of interpro action since returning home from Racing 92.

Keith Earls gets his second outing of the campaign in the outside centre position, pairing up with Rory Scannell, and Joey Carbery and Craig Casey feature together at half-back.

Beirne, who last played for Munster against Connacht in the Rainbow Cup last May, links up with Jean Kleyn in the engine room. They will pack down behind Dave Kilcoyne, Niall Scannell and John Ryan.

O’Mahony and in-form duo Cloete and Gavin Coombes start in the back row. Number 8 Coombes already has two URC tries to his name, a tally matched by Cloete and fellow back rower Jack O’Donoghue.

Recent Greencore Munster Rugby Academy graduate Jake Flannery is included among the replacements and set to make his first appearance of the season.

Fineen Wycherley and the aforementioned O’Donoghue, who have started all three of Munster’s games so far this season, are also listed on the bench.

Speaking about the challenge posed by Connacht and the fact that Saturday marks five years since Anthony Foley’s sad passing, Munster defence coach JP Ferreira said: “Look, we know Connacht are very good in attack. Andy (Friend) has said that they want to play a high ball-in-play time.

“If we go back to our URC 2 game against the Stormers, it was pretty much the same template with the ball-in-play. They want to raise it and catch us on the hop shifting that point of attack.

“That’s Connacht. They’re tough, they stay in it, there’s not going to be a second where they miss, and obviously in this competition if you miss a tackle you’re going to go back 20, 30 metres or concede a try, so we’ve got to be really on our game this weekend.

“It’s so great that on Anthony’s fifth anniversary we’ve got crowds back and that’s going to make it special for the group, for guys that played with him and the legacy that he’s left behind.

“We’ll acknowledge that and we’re looking forward to the weekend.”

Buy tickets online here now. Tickets are only available online right up to kick-off but will not be available to purchase at Thomond Park on matchday.

It is the personal responsibility of all supporters to ensure they adhere to Government guidelines and adult supporters should note that proof of vaccination or recovery may be requested before entry. See full details here.

MUNSTER (v Connacht): Mike Haley; Andrew Conway, Keith Earls, Rory Scannell, Simon Zebo; Joey Carbery, Craig Casey; Dave Kilcoyne, Niall Scannell, John Ryan, Jean Kleyn, Tadhg Beirne, Peter O’Mahony (capt), Chris Cloete, Gavin Coombes.

Replacements: Diarmuid Barron, Jeremy Loughman, Stephen Archer, Fineen Wycherley, Jack O’Donoghue, Neil Cronin, Jake Flannery, Dan Goggin.