Munster, back on top of the RaboDirect PRO12 table, face a difficult trip to the Welsh capital as they look to beat the Cardiff Blues for the fourth time in five matches.
RABODIRECT PRO12: Friday, September 23
CARDIFF BLUES (4th) v MUNSTER (1st), Cardiff City Stadium, 7.05pm (live RTÉ Two/BBC 2 Wales)
Team News: Danny Barnes will return to the Munster team for Friday’s RaboDirect PRO12 game against the Cardiff Blues at Cardiff City Stadium.
Barnes, who missed the bonus point win over the Scarlets with a slight hand injury, is one of two changes Tony McGahan has made to the starting back-line.
Duncan Williams has also been drafted into the backs division, while overall there are six alterations to the side that started against Scarlets last time out.
Up front, Wian du Preez steps in for Marcus Horan and on the tighthead Stephen Archer comes in for John Hayes.
The wily Mick O’Driscoll will be partnered by Billy Holland in the second row and Tommy O’Donnell, a try scorer against the Scarlets, breaks into the back row in place of Niall Ronan.
An interesting newcomer to the matchday squad is 23-year-old prop John Ryan. The former Ireland Schools and Under-19/Under-20 international was drafted into the squad in place of Horan who is suffering from illness.
Meanwhile, Cardiff Blues coaches Gareth Baber and Justin Burnell have made seven changes to the side that lost out in Ulster last Friday as they welcome defending champions Munster.
In the backs Dan Fish comes in for Chris Czekaj who misses the match with a shoulder injury and Richard Mustoe in for Tom James who is out with a calf strain.
Other changes in the backs see Dafydd Hewitt and Richie Rees starting with Casey Laulala and Lewis Jones dropping down to the replacements bench.
There are three changes in the forwards with Andries Pretorius recovered from a knee injury and starting at number 8 – Xavier Rush makes way.
Ma’ama Molitika moves from blindside to openside flanker in place of the injured Martyn Williams, while Michael Paterson switches to the back row. Deiniol Jones joins captain Paul Tito in the second row.
CARDIFF BLUES: Dan Fish; Alex Cuthbert, Gavin Evans, Dafydd Hewitt, Richard Mustoe; Ceri Sweeney, Richie Rees; Sam Hobbs, Rhys Thomas, Scott Andrews, Paul Tito (capt), Deiniol Jones, Michael Paterson, Ma’ama Molitika, Andries Pretorius.
Replacements: Rhys Williams, Nathan Trevett, Ryan Harford, Xavier Rush, Thomas Young, Lewis Jones, Rhys Patchell, Casey Laulala.
MUNSTER: Johne Murphy; Doug Howlett, Danny Barnes, Lifeimi Mafi, Denis Hurley; Ian Keatley, Duncan Williams; Wian du Preez, Mike Sherry, Stephen Archer, Billy Holland, Mick O’Driscoll, Peter O’Mahony (capt), Tommy O’Donnell, James Coughlan.
Replacements: Denis Fogarty, John Ryan, John Hayes, Dave Foley, Niall Ronan, Peter Stringer, Scott Deasy, Tom Gleeson.
Referee: David Wilkinson (Ireland)
Assistant Referees: David Jones, Huw Griffiths (both Wales)
Television Match Official: Gareth Simmonds (Wales)
Match Odds (Paddy Power): Cardiff Blues to win: 10/11; Draw: 20/1; Munster to win: 10/11
Pre-Match Quotes: Anthony Foley (Munster) – “We were delighted with the outcome (of the Scarlets game). Okay, at times it was sloppy. At times we lost our flow.
“At times we didn’t play the way we’d planned. But look, you can’t always get it spot on much as you’d like. Everyone strives for perfection and fluid play but unfortunately when conditions deteriorated to the state they did in the second half, the ball became a bar of soap and that made things very difficult.
“As I said before, there’s a good mindset, there’s a good attitude in the side. They don’t give up. They don’t give anything to the opposition without them having to earn it.
“For the young lads they’re learning their trade and applying their trade very well out there. If you judge them off the first three league games you’d have to be impressed. But we want more.
“We’re kind of selfish in that manner in that we want bigger performances from these guys. And by demanding more in training and by them being self critical hopefully we can push it on to another level.”
Gareth Baber (Cardiff Blues) – “Similar to Ulster, all Munster sides are very disciplined and structured. They will be physical and want to play in the right areas by implementing a good kicking game.
“They will try to use their physicality and we have to match that and put our game in place. It will be a tough match, but that’s the level at which we are playing.
“We are at home so we’ve got to go out there with real intensity and aggression.
‘There are new systems in place that the players are still learning, but we need them to come out and be at the top level on Friday. The players we have here are quite capable of doing that, so we’re looking forward to a good tight battle.”
Top Scorers – 2011/12 RaboDirect PRO12: Cardiff Blues – Points: Ceri Sweeney 23; Tries: Sam Hobbs, Tom James 2 each; Munster – Points: Ian Keatley 38; Tries: Danny Barnes, Lifeimi Mafi, Niall Ronan, Simon Zebo, Doug Howlett, Duncan Williams, Tommy O’Donnell 1 each
RECENT LEAGUE MEETINGS:
Saturday, September 20, 2008 – Munster 28 Cardiff Blues 20, Musgrave Park
Sunday, May 10, 2009 – Cardiff Blues 20 Munster 12, Arms Park
Friday, September 11, 2009 – Munster 24 Cardiff Blues 13, Thomond Park
Sunday, May 9, 2010 – Cardiff Blues 13 Munster 12, Cardiff City Stadium
Saturday, December 4, 2010 – Munster 16 Cardiff Blues 9, Thomond Park
Friday, March 25, 2011 – Cardiff Blues 15 Munster 16, Cardiff City Stadium
– Cardiff Blues lost their place at the top of the RaboDirect PRO12 table following their 20-3 defeat at Ulster last Friday. The Blues have won just one of their last four matches against Irish provinces
– Defending champions Munster returned to the top of the table and stretched their record -reaking winning run to 13 matches against the Scarlets last Saturday
– The Munstermen have conceded only one try in their last six matches and have now gone 322 minutes without having their defence breached
– Munster themselves hold the record for the longest spell without conceding a try, with a 371-minute sequence in the 2004/05 season
– Munster achieved the league double over Cardiff last season, whilst the Blues have never won in five previous visits to Thomond Park