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Munster Make Two Changes For Connacht Encounter

Munster Make Two Changes For Connacht Encounter

Ireland internationals Jack Crowley and Craig Casey will pair up at half-back for Munster against provincial rivals Connacht ©INPHO/Ben Brady

Ireland out-half Jack Crowley will make his 50th appearance for Munster in Saturday’s BKT United Rugby Championship derby match against Connacht at Thomond Park (kick-off 5.15pm).

Over 19,000 tickets have already been snapped up for the eagerly-awaited interprovincial tie in Limerick, with a family pack of four tickets available for just €40. Get your tickets here.

The Munstermen bring plenty of momentum into the final rounds of the URC’s regular season, following back-to-back bonus point wins in South Africa. They won 27-22 at the Vodacom Bulls, before wrapping up their short tour with a 33-13 victory over the Emirates Lions.

“There was loads of stuff to be pleased with over the last couple of weeks and a few work-ons,” admitted Munster defence coach Denis Leamy.

“Definitely, how we set out our plan and how we stuck to that plan, and how the boys maneuvered and played within that was really pleasing.

“We knew against the Lions that we would have to conserve our energy at times and put the ball off the park and back our defence, and I think we played a really smart game and then took the opportunities when they came.”

Craig Casey and Alex Nankivell slot back into the back-line this week, with the latter starting alongside Seán O’Brien in a new-look centre partnership. O’Brien has scored five tries in his last six games.

Crowley and Casey will lead a backs unit that also includes Calvin Nash and Shane Daly out wide, and Simon Zebo, who had a key influence in both Pretoria and Johannesburg, will make his third successive start at full-back.

The province’s pack is also unchanged for the third game in a row, starting with a front row of Jeremy Loughman, Niall Scannell, and Stephen Archer, with RG Snyman and captain Tadhg Beirne in the engine room.

Graham Rowntree’s starting XV is completed by the back row trio of former skipper Peter O’Mahony, Alex Kendellen, and Jack O’Donoghue. With John Hodnett out injured, Kendellen impressed against the Lions, particularly in defence with a total of 24 tackles.

Eoghan Clarke, Academy prop Mark Donnelly, and Oli Jager provide the front row cover this week, with Tom Ahern and Gavin Coombes also primed for involvement off the bench. Conor Murray, Joey Carbery, and Antoine Frisch are the replacement backs.

On the injury front, Josh Wycherley was ruled out for selection as he continues to follow the graduated return-to-play protocols. He has also seen a specialist regarding a facial injury and will be unavailable for a number of weeks.

Leamy added: “We’ve a big game at home at the weekend, it’s a big derby game against our closest neighbours (Connacht), and it means an awful lot to both sides and there’s an awful lot on the line.

“We have to take that in isolation, and really look to put a performance and back up what we’ve done over the last couple of weeks. Obviously home advantage (in the play-offs) is something that’s big picture stuff.

“That’s ultimately it, there’ll be a lot of games where there are almost eight-pointers within the league. There’s an awful lot to happen yet and there’ll be a lot of twists and turns in this league.

“It’s a brilliant league, it’s fascinating the way it’s taken shape and the way every game is so important. There’s a huge amount at stake and a huge amount to play for.”

MUNSTER (v Connacht): Simon Zebo; Calvin Nash, Alex Nankivell, Seán O’Brien, Shane Daly; Jack Crowley, Craig Casey; Jeremy Loughman, Niall Scannell, Stephen Archer, RG Snyman, Tadhg Beirne (capt), Peter O’Mahony, Alex Kendellen, Jack O’Donoghue.

Replacements: Eoghan Clarke, Mark Donnelly, Oli Jager, Tom Ahern, Gavin Coombes, Conor Murray, Joey Carbery, Antoine Frisch.