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GUINNESS PRO12 Preview: Munster v Ulster

GUINNESS PRO12 Preview: Munster v Ulster

A fascinating interprovincial duel lies ahead tonight as Munster attempt to avenge last May’s 19-17 loss at Thomond Park and climb above second-placed Ulster in the GUINNESS PRO12 table.

GUINNESS PRO12: Friday, November 28

MUNSTER (3rd) v ULSTER (2nd), Thomond Park, 7.35pm (live TG4/BBC 2 Northern Ireland)

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Team News: Bolstered by a number of returning internationals, Anthony Foley has named a strong Munster squad to face Ulster in Friday’s GUINNESS PRO12 derby clash.

There are five personnel changes to the starting line-up that earned a bonus point victory over the Dragons last weekend, with South African centre Pat Howard set to make his first start for the province.

One change in the front row sees BJ Botha promoted from the bench to start at tighthead prop alongside hooker Duncan Casey and loosehead John Ryan.

Donncha O’Callaghan will once again captain the side and partner Billy Holland in the second row. In the back row, recent Ireland debutant Robin Copeland moves to blindside flanker with Paddy Butler switching to openside, while CJ Stander comes back into the team at number 8.

Duncan Williams is another returning player at scrum half alongside Ian Keatley. Having made his debut from the bench last weekend, Howard will make his first start for the province as he lines up outside Denis Hurley in the midfield.

In the back three, Gerhard van den Heever comes in on the right wing with Ronan O’Mahony on the opposite flank, while JJ Hanrahan makes his second consecutive start at full-back.

Three returning internationals – Dave Kilcoyne, Tommy O’Donnell and Felix Jones – are named on the bench. As Cathal Sheridan is to undergo further investigation on a forearm injury picked up in the Dragons game, in-form Garryowen scrum half Neil Cronin is included among the replacements.

Match tickets from just €;7 for juniors and €;23 for adults can be purchased online here, at the Munster Rugby Ticket Offices in Musgrave Park and Thomond Park, or by calling 0818 719 300.

Meanwhile, the inclusion of captain Rory Best is one of four changes to the Ulster side that beat the Ospreys at Kingspan Stadium last Friday.

In the only change to the province’s back-line, Ian Humphreys starts at out-half in place of the injured Paddy Jackson.

Stuart Olding remains at full-back, with Louis Ludik on the right wing and Craig Gilroy on the left. Stuart McCloskey and Darren Cave continue their centre partnership with Paul Marshall starting at scrum half.

Callum Black and Wiehahn Herbst start either side of captain Best in the front row with Alan O’Connor coming into the second row alongside Franco van der Merwe.

In the back row, Nick Williams starts at number 8 with Roger Wilson switching across the back row to blindside flanker. Sean Reidy continues at openside.

Robbie Diack, who represented Ireland in the GUINNESS Series, is named on the bench, as is Michael Allen, who has recovered from the shoulder injury that he sustained playing for the Ravens.

Forwards Rob Herring, Andrew Warwick, Declan Fitzpatrick and Lewis Stevenson and backs Michael Heaney and Peter Nelson complete the matchday squad.

MUNSTER: JJ Hanrahan; Gerhard van den Heever, Pat Howard, Denis Hurley, Ronan O’Mahony; Ian Keatley, Duncan Williams; John Ryan, Duncan Casey, BJ Botha, Donncha O’Callaghan (capt), Billy Holland, Robin Copeland, Paddy Butler, CJ Stander

Replacements: Kevin O’Byrne, Dave Kilcoyne, Stephen Archer, Tommy O’Donnell, Sean Dougall, Neil Cronin, Andrew Smith, Felix Jones.

ULSTER: Stuart Olding; Louis Ludik, Darren Cave, Stuart McCloskey Craig Gilroy; Ian Humphreys, Paul Marshall; Callum Black, Rory Best (capt), Wiehahn Herbst, Alan O’Connor, Franco van der Merwe, Roger Wilson, Sean Reidy, Nick Williams.

Replacements: Rob Herring, Andrew Warwick, Declan Fitzpatrick, Lewis Stevenson, Robbie Diack, Michael Heaney, Michael Allen, Peter Nelson.

Referee: Ian Davies (Wales)
Assistant Referees: Gary Conway, Paul Haycock (both Ireland)
Television Match Official: Kevin Beggs (Ireland)

Match Odds (Paddy Power): Munster to win: 4/11; Draw: 19/1; Ulster to win: 2/1

Pre-Match Quotes: Ian Costello (Munster) – “Last year Ulster came down with an understrength side and they beat us in Thomond Park and I think we are talking about that now. We are looking to operate the standards we should be operating at and Thomond Park has to be a place that people fear coming, and we have to make sure that on Friday night we re-establish that.

“We were disappointed, we let ourselves down last year when they came here and beat us with the side that they came down with so it is a good opportunity to put that right.

“I think Anthony (Foley) has been very clear, and Brian (Walsh) from an attacking perspective, that you want to have decision makers on the field, distributors. It could be at 10-12, it could be at 10-15.

“I think the last day, obviously with JJ in the second half, it was a new position for him but I think towards the end of the game, he looked more and more comfortable (at full-back).

“I think he probably found a way to get himself into the game and he had some important touches and he had some pretty crucial involvement towards the end of the game. That is what Axel has spoken about all along as a possibility for us and it worked out well for us (against the Dragons) last weekend.”

Stuart Olding (Ulster) – “It was a huge experience for me (playing for Ireland in the GUINNESS Series). Coming back off that knee injury it was one of my aims this season.

“I just wanted to learn as much as possible and I was delighted to get some game-time (against Georgia). It has now given me a hunger for more.

“Everybody’s game rises a notch or two (playing an interpro at Thomond Park). The Munster fans are very passionate and always get right behind their players. The one thing we are always told is to focus on ourselves and what we have to do.

“Coming off the back of a good win (over the Ospreys) last week, and coming into a very important part of the season, we intend to kick on and strive for that win.

“But we can expect a backlash after last May’s 19-17 win in Limerick. Nobody wants to lose at home, and Munster will come right back us and probably use that as motivation.”

Top Scorers – 2014/15 GUINNESS PRO12: Munster – Points: Ian Keatley 57; Tries: Simon Zebo 4; Ulster – Points: Ian Humphreys 56; Tries: Andrew Trimble 4


Friday, December 30, 2011 – Ulster 33 Munster 17, Ravenhill
Saturday, May 5, 2012 – Munster 36 Ulster 8, Thomond Park
Friday, September 14, 2012 – Ulster 20 Munster 19, Ravenhill
Saturday, December 29, 2012 – Munster 24 Ulster 10, Thomond Park
Friday, January 3, 2014 – Ulster 29 Munster 19, Ravenhill
Saturday, May 10, 2014 – Munster 17 Ulster 19, Thomond Park


– Munster have won their last six matches in all competitions, and are the form team in the GUINNESS PRO12 having claimed 23 league points from their last six matches

– Surprisingly, the Munstermen have secured more points on their travels this season than they have from their four home games

– Ulster’s only defeat so far this season in the GUINNESS PRO12 came at Zebre in round 4

– The Ulstermen have lost only one of their last five regular season games played at the homes of their provincial rivals: 19-6 to Leinster at the RDS on December 28 last year

– Ulster have lost just one of their last four encounters with Munster: 24-10 at Thomond Park in December 2012 and are searching for a second successive victory in Limerick for the first time since the early 1990s