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Magners Preview: Connacht v Munster

Magners Preview: Connacht v Munster

Both Connacht and Munster suffered disappointing defeats in Europe last time out, so this interprovincial encounter is particularly crucial as the sides look to kickstart the post-Christmas period with a win in Galway.

MAGNERS LEAGUE: Monday, December 27

CONNACHT (11th) v MUNSTER (1st), the Sportsground, 6.10pm (live TG4)

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Team News: In his 92nd appearance for Connacht, centre Keith Matthews will captain the province for Monday’s Magners League derby match against Munster at the Sportsground.

The festive derby has had to be refixed for Monday to allow the pitch at the Sportsground time to thaw out from the record-breaking freezing temperatures experienced this week.

Matthews, who will captain Connacht against his native province, joined the westerners in 2005 having made two appearances for Munster.

The 28-year-old from Limerick has featured in 68 Magners League games and 23 Amlin Challenge Cup ties for Connacht.

He was capped against Argentina Jaguares when selected for Ireland ‘A’ in November of last year alongside his province team-mates John Muldoon, Brett Wilkinson, Ian Keatley and Frank Murphy.

Looking at the rest of the selected Connacht side, Gavin Duffy’s back injury allows Keatley a chance to impress at full-back. The 23-year-old traditionally plays at out-half but has shown his versatility of late, having excelled at centre and full-back.

In a welcome boost, Niva Ta’auso has recovered from an ankle injury to continue his centre partnership with Matthews.

Also back from injury is Ezra Taylor who comes in for regular skipper John Muldoon at number 8. Muldoon fractured his forearm against Harlequins last weekend and is expected to be out for a number of months.

Meanwhile, experienced out-half Ronan O’Gara has been chosen as Munster’s captain for their festive derby clash with Connacht in Galway.

With a number of Munster’s Ireland internationals being rested as part of the IRFU Player Management Programme, the province’s starting line-up is much changed from last weekend’s Heineken Cup defeat at the Ospreys.

Paul Warwick and stand-in captain O’Gara are the only survivors in the back-line from that day, with the likes of Barry Murphy and Tom Gleeson, who have both impressed for the Munster ‘A’ side in recent weeks, slotting in.

Mike Sherry and Peter Borlase join Wian du Preez in the front row, ahead of completely new second row and back row combinations.

Donnacha Ryan returns for his first Magners League appearance since October, joining forces with the up-and-coming Ian Nagle who will be making his fourth ever league start.

In the back row, Alan Quinlan and Niall Ronan have Cashel youngster Paddy Butler alongside them at number 8.

The talented Butler, who starred for the Ireland Under-20s last season, will be making his senior debut for Munster.

CONNACHT: Ian Keatley; Darragh Fanning, Niva Ta’auso, Keith Matthews (capt), Fionn Carr; Miah Nikora, Cillian Willis; Rob Sweeney, Sean Cronin, Jamie Hagan, Michael Swift, Michael McCarthy, Andrew Browne, Johnny O’Connor, Ezra Taylor.

Replacements: Adrian Flavin, Barry Fa’amausili, Dylan Rogers, Bernie Upton, Mike McComish, Frank Murphy, Troy Nathan, Brian Tuohy.

MUNSTER: Paul Warwick; Barry Murphy, Tom Gleeson, Lifeimi Mafi, Denis Hurley; Ronan O’Gara (capt), Peter Stringer; Wian du Preez, Mike Sherry, Peter Borlase, Donnacha Ryan, Ian Nagle, Alan Quinlan, Niall Ronan, Paddy Butler.

Replacements: Sean Henry, Dave Ryan, John Hayes, Billy Holland, Tommy O’Donnell, Conor Murray, Johne Murphy, Scott Deasy.

Referee: David Wilkinson (Ireland)
Assistant Referees: Michael Black, Richard Kerr (both Ireland)
Television Match Official: Peter Ferguson (Ireland)

Match Odds (Paddy Power): Connacht to win: 11/8; Draw: 18/1; Munster to win: 4/7

Pre-Match Quotes: Eric Elwood (Connacht) – “We will have to take Munster on up front to beat them. I don’t think the game this weekend will be any different from recent encounters, they’ll be strong at the breakdown.

“Their scrum is a talking point but I have no doubt they’ll ask us questions there and it is always an area where you have to challenge them.

“Ideally we would like to be coming into this off the back of a couple of wins but there is no doubt these are the games that lads love to play in and I have no doubt that they will respond to the recent defeats against Harlequins with a big game.

“We were disappointed (last weekend), because we felt we played very well at the Stoop and had created a lot of chances without taking them, so we had been very much looking forward to the game at home and we saw it as an opportunity to get that win on the board but we were disappointed at how we performed.”

Alan Quinlan (Munster) – “The disappointment of that defeat to the Ospreys in Swansea is still there but we have to put it behind us and focus for the next three weeks on the Magners League – starting with this game in Connacht.

“It’s never an easy place to go and get a result. We’d expect a typical derby encounter.

“There are no surprises when you play them (Connacht). They’re a good physical side, strong up front and they have pace in the backs with the likes of Fionn Carr.

“They’ve the kickers too to punish us if we don’t keep our discipline. So it’s a big challenge and I’d imagine it’ll be a tight game.”

Top Scorers – 2010/11 Magners League: Connacht – Points: Ian Keatley 97; Tries: Fionn Carr 4; Munster – Points: Ronan O’Gara 79; Tries: Niall Ronan 3


Thursday, December 27, 2007 – Munster 17 Connacht 0, Musgrave Park
Friday, March 28, 2008 – Connacht 5 Munster 16, the Sportsground
Sunday, December 28, 2008 – Connacht 12 Munster 6, the Sportsground
Saturday, April 18, 2009 – Munster 25 Connacht 10, Thomond Park
Saturday, December 26, 2009 – Munster 35 Connacht 3, Thomond Park
Sunday, April 18, 2010 – Connacht 12 Munster 18, the Sportsground


– Connacht’s only victory in their last seven matches was against the touring Samoans in Galway on November 9

– Connacht have lost their last five games in the Magners League

– Munster’s last six encounters in all competitions have been won by the home side on the day. Munster have a won 1, lost 1 record against fellow Irish provinces this season

– Connacht’s sole victory over Munster since 1986 was a 12-6 triumph at the Sportsground on December 28, 2008