October was a very productive month for Munster with a run of four successive victories across the GUINNESS PRO12 and European Champions Cup. Anthony Foley’s men kick off November with a trip to Cardiff Arms Park.
GUINNESS PRO12: Saturday, November 1
CARDIFF BLUES (10th) v MUNSTER (5th), BT Sport Cardiff Arms Park, 5.15pm (live Sky Sports 2 HD)
Team News: With a number of international players unavailable for selection, Anthony Foley has rung the changes for Saturday’s GUINNESS PRO12 clash with Cardiff Blues. Donncha O’Callaghan, Munster’s most-capped player, will captain the province in the Welsh capital.
In total, there are 11 personnel changes to the Munster team that defeated Saracens 14-3 in Pool 1 of the European Champions Cup last weekend.
In the front row John Ryan returns from illness to start at loosehead prop alongside hooker Kevin O’Byrne, while BJ Botha retains his starting position at tighthead.
O’Callaghan returns to the matchday squad and will captain the side from the second row alongside Billy Holland who is promoted from the bench.
In the back row CJ Stander switches from number 8 to blindside flanker, and following two strong performances for Munster ‘A’ in the British & Irish Cup in which he scored two tries, Paddy Butler dons the number 7 jersey.
Robin Copeland is also promoted to a starting position as he faces his old Cardiff team-mates from the back of the scrum.
Duncan Williams and JJ Hanrahan are paired together from the start for the first time this season at scrum half and out half respectively, while impressive appearances in all Munster ‘A’ games to date this season sees year two Academy player Rory Scannell selected for his first senior competitive appearance, featuring in the centre alongside Andrew Smith.
Having trained with Ireland at Carton House earlier this week, Andrew Conway remains on the right wing with Gerhard van den Heever coming in on the opposite flank. Johne Murphy also returns at full-back.
Following his inclusion in the Ireland squad for the upcoming GUINNESS Series, Stephen Archer provides front row cover on the bench and year two Academy second row Sean McCarthy is another player in line to make his competitive debut after being named among the replacements.
Prop Alan Cotter (pictured below) and flanker Barry O’Mahony – two of the forward replacements – could also feature in the PRO12 for the first time this season.
Meanwhile, Argentina’s Lucas Amorosino will make his Cardiff Blues debut after being named on the left wing for the home encounter with Munster.
Amorosino will make his first appearance for Blues as they return to league action after successive victories in the European Challenge Cup.
The flying winger is one of seven changes to the side that defeated Femi-CZ Rugby Rovigo in Italy last weekend. Gavin Evans is recalled in midfield, with Adam Thomas moving to outside centre.
A new-look front row sees hooker Matthew Rees captain the team and pack down alongside Sam Hobbs and Adam Jones. Jarrad Hoeata and Filo Paulo are reunited in the second row.
Hot prospect Garyn Smith could also make his debut with the Blues Academy product named among the replacements.
Prop Taufa’ao Filise is also set to become a joint record holder for Blues. If he comes off the bench, the front rower will join Rhys Thomas at the top of the all-time record caps list with 182 appearances.
CARDIFF BLUES: Rhys Patchell; Richard Smith, Adam Thomas, Gavin Evans, Lucas Amorosino; Gareth Davies, Lloyd Williams; Sam Hobbs, Matthew Rees (capt), Adam Jones, Jarrad Hoeata, Filo Paulo, Josh Turnbull, Josh Navidi, Manoa Vosawai.
Replacements: Kristian Dacey, Thomas Davies, Taufa’ao Filise, Macauley Cook, Ellis Jenkins, Lewis Jones, Garyn Smith, Dan Fish.
MUNSTER: Johne Murphy; Andrew Conway, Andrew Smith, Rory Scannell, Gerhard van den Heever; JJ Hanrahan, Duncan Williams; John Ryan, Kevin O’Byrne, BJ Botha, Donncha O’Callaghan (capt), Billy Holland, CJ Stander, Paddy Butler, Robin Copeland.
Replacements: Eusebio Guinazu, Alan Cotter, Stephen Archer, Sean McCarthy, Barry O’Mahony, Cathal Sheridan, Johnny Holland, Ronan O’Mahony.
Referee: Marius Mitrea (Italy)
Assistant Referees: Leighton Hodges, Simon Rees (both Wales)
Match Odds (Paddy Power): Cardiff Blues to win: 13/8; Draw: 18/1; Munster to win: 4/9
Pre-Match Quotes: Ian Costello (Munster) – “We knew these internationals were on the horizon and we hoped to have as many players as possible called up to the national squad and we’re delighted to have 11 players selected, while Andrew Conway has also gone up to train with Ireland this week.
“If we are performing well and successful on the pitch here in Munster, we’ll get a lot of players involved with Ireland and that’s what we want so we’re prepared for that.
“In the last few weeks, the ‘A’ squad have had three very competitive games in the British & Irish Cup along with an interprovincial win over Leinster ‘A’, and we’ve done an awful lot of work in the background to prepare for this block of games when the internationals are away.
“We’re in a reasonably good position (in the PRO12) but we want to improve on that this week and in the coming weeks, after which we will begin to look at the run in to Europe again (in December).
“This week is all about Cardiff on the road, putting in a good performance, hopefully getting a result over there and establishing ourselves firmly in the top few teams.”
Mark Hammett (Cardiff Blues) – “We go into the Munster fixture on the back of two bonus point victories in Europe, but we are certainly not getting carried away with those wins.
“Playing in Europe allowed us to build confidence, momentum and work on our structures and systems. Our challenge is to transfer that into the PRO12 against a powerhouse side in Munster.
“Munster are a challenging side who have a strong pick and go game, run hard and direct and are strong technically. We’ve got to be right on the money from the start because we will be tested all over the field.”
Top Scorers – 2014/15 GUINNESS PRO12: Cardiff Blues – Points: Rhys Patchell 69; Tries: Lloyd Williams, Kristian Dacey 2 each; Munster – Points: Ian Keatley 44; Tries: Simon Zebo 4
RECENT LEAGUE MEETINGS:
Friday, September 23, 2011 – Cardiff Blues 13 Munster 18, Cardiff City Stadium
Friday, February 24, 2012 – Munster 16 Cardiff Blues 13, Thomond Park
Friday, November 2, 2012 – Cardiff Blues 18 Munster 24, Cardiff Arms Park
Saturday, January 5, 2013 – Munster 6 Cardiff Blues 17, Musgrave Park
Saturday, November 23, 2013 – Cardiff Blues 10 Munster 31, Cardiff Arms Park
Saturday, February 8, 2014 – Munster 54 Cardiff Blues 13, Thomond Park
– Cardiff Blues have won successive matches in the European Challenge Cup, but their only victory in the GUINNESS PRO12 so far this campaign came in round 1 at Zebre
– The Blues have played three games against Irish provinces this season and have yet to win, but did at least draw 24-all at Connacht in round 5
– Munster’s only defeat in their last seven fixtures in all competitions was 19-14 at home to the Ospreys in round 4 of the PRO12
– The Munstermen have a perfect played three, won three record on the road this season in all competitions, but were defeated on their most recent visit to Wales, 18-13 at the Scarlets in March
– Cardiff Blues have beaten Munster only once in their last eight encounters: 17-6 at Musgrave Park in January 2013, while the Blues have not actually beaten Munster at BT Sport Cardiff Arms Park since May 2009