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RaboDirect PRO12 Preview: Munster v Ulster

RaboDirect PRO12 Preview: Munster v Ulster

With their place in the play-offs confirmed, Ulster will give some of their youngsters the chance to shine against a Munster team that are still chasing home advantage in the RaboDirect PRO12 semi-finals.

RABODIRECT PRO12: Saturday, May 10

MUNSTER (3rd) v ULSTER (4th), Thomond Park, 6.30pm (live RTÉ Two/BBC 2 Northern Ireland)

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Team News: With the squad’s strength in depth, Munster head coach Rob Penney has made a total of 10 personnel changes to the starting line-up for Saturday’s derby match against Ulster at Thomond Park.

In the front row David Kilcoyne and Damien Varley come in for James Cronin and Duncan Casey respectively, with John Ryan retaining his place at tighthead prop.

Duncan Casey, who was replaced after 30 minutes against Edinburgh, met with a specialist on Thursday and underwent surgery yesterday on his right shoulder.

David Foley teams up with Paul O’Connell in the second row, while Paddy Butler moves from number 8 to blindside flanker with Sean Dougall and James Coughlan completing the back row unit.

Duncan Williams starts alongside Ian Keatley in the half-backs, while the midfield combination sees the return of James Downey and Casey Laulala.

Simon Zebo switches back to the number 11 jersey with Gerhard van den Heever on the opposite wing and Felix Jones occupies the full-back position having sat out last weekend’s facile win in Edinburgh.

Click here to purchase tickets for the round 22 game between provincial rivals Munster and Ulster.

Meanwhile, Dan Tuohy will captain Ulster in the province’s final regular season game when they take on Munster in Saturday’s interprovincial derby.

Tuohy has captained Ulster for brief periods in matches before, but this RaboDirect PRO12 clash will be the first time that he has led the province from the start of a game, something which the 28 year-old views as a huge honour.

“Mark Anscombe pulled me to one side on Monday and said that I was going to captain the team – I was delighted,” said the Ireland second row.

“For me, I am just going to concentrate on my own game, get the lads behind me and hopefully we can put in a decent performance on Saturday night.”

Tuohy’s inclusion is one of 12 changes that Anscombe has made to the side that played Leinster at Ravenhill last weekend.

There is a completely new back-line, with Craig Gilroy starting at full-back, David McIlwaine selected on the right wing and Michael Allen and Hughes Insurance Academy Player of the Year Stuart McCloskey starting in the centre.

Rory Scholes is named on the left wing, with James McKinney starting at out-half and Michael Heaney picked at scrum half.

Up front, Callum Black starts at loosehead prop with hooker Rob Herring and Andrew Warwick keeping their places in the front row.

Lewis Stevenson partners Tuohy in the second row, while Mike McComish and Sean Doyle start either side of number 8 Nick Williams in the back row.

Bronson Ross has recovered from neck surgery and is selected on the bench along with fellow forwards Kyle McCall, Adam Macklin, Neil McComb and Conor Joyce. Backs David Shanahan, Ricky Andrew and Peter Nelson complete the matchday squad.

With the hard-earned bonus point secured against Leinster, Ulster are guaranteed to finish in fourth position in the league and will be involved in the play-offs next week.

MUNSTER: Felix Jones; Gerhard van den Heever, Casey Laulala, James Downey, Simon Zebo; Ian Keatley, Duncan Williams; David Kilcoyne, Damien Varley (capt), John Ryan, David Foley, Paul O’Connell, Paddy Butler, Sean Dougall, James Coughlan.

Replacements: Quentin MacDonald, James Cronin, Alan Cotter, Billy Holland, Tommy O’Donnell, Conor Murray, JJ Hanrahan, Keith Earls.

ULSTER: Craig Gilroy; David McIlwaine, Michael Allen, Stuart McCloskey, Rory Scholes; James McKinney, Michael Heaney; Callum Black, Rob Herring, Andrew Warwick, Lewis Stevenson, Dan Tuohy (capt), Mike McComish, Sean Doyle, Nick Williams.

Replacements: Kyle McCall, Bronson Ross, Adam Macklin, Neil McComb, Conor Joyce, David Shanahan, Ricky Andrew, Peter Nelson.

Referee: Nigel Owens (Wales)
Assistant Referees: Dudley Phillips, Gary Conway (both Ireland)
Television Match Official: Alan Rogan (Ireland)

Match Odds (Paddy Power): Munster to win: 1/40; Draw: 40/1; Ulster to win: 10/1

Pre-Match Quotes: Gerhard van den Heever (Munster) – “I wasn’t happy at the start (at Munster) because I broke my hand and it wasn’t the start I really wanted and I struggled in a few games I didn’t play the rugby I wanted.

“The last few games I’ve got a lot of ball carries and I got a lot of gain-lines, so I was chuffed with the last couple of games and I can only get better from here.

“Ulster is a massive game, never really played Ulster before. It was not our best performance I think the last time we played Ulster (in January) and we can expect a lot better than that this weekend.

“As well we’re playing at Thomond Park so it’s unacceptable for us to lose here. Thomond Park is a massive factor and it’s just an amazing stadium to play at.

“The crowd is much different here than it is back home (in South Africa). You can feel the atmosphere in the crowd and everyone is just cheering on the side. It is like there is 1,000 people on the field playing for Munster. It is just a great feeling.”

Dan Tuohy (Ulster) – “This squad has been together for four years and has made great progress, but there remains that feeling that to really show where we have come to there needs to be a trophy.

“It does not matter who is involved this weekend, everyone involved will be going out to put in a performance in a big Irish derby.

“Knowing we are in the semi-finals is good and takes the pressure off. That could work in our favour as Munster will be going all out to win the game as they can still better their position in the league.

“Everyone involved will be looking to make their case for selection next week. For me personally I want to show Mark (Anscombe) that I can do a job. I am just coming back from another injury, so I am looking to go well.”

Top Scorers – 2013/14 RaboDirect PRO12: Munster – Points: JJ Hanrahan 152; Tries: Simon Zebo, CJ Stander, Andrew Conway 4 each; Ulster – Points: Paddy Jackson 174; Tries: Tommy Bowe, Darren Cave 5 each


Saturday, January 1, 2011 – Munster 35 Ulster 10, Thomond Park
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


– Munster are guaranteed a top three finish, but a victory and other results going in their favour could see them finish in top spot

– The Munstermen’s last three matches in the RaboDirect PRO12 have all been won by the away side on the day, while they were defeated by Glasgow at Thomond Park in their most recent home game but have not lost back-to-back contests in Limerick in the competition since April 2010

– Ulster have already ensured they will finish fourth in the table but have won only one of their last four PRO12 matches: at home to Connacht in round 19

– The Ulstermen have lost their last two away games, at Cardiff Blues and Glasgow Warriors

– Ulster beat Munster 29-19 at Ravenhill in round 12, and have not achieved a season’s double over the Munstermen since the 2008/09 season