Preview: Munster v Cardiff Blues

Date published: February 13 2015

Munster head coach Anthony Foley has named a strong side to face Cardiff Blues in Saturday's Pro12 clash in Cork.

Foley has made inside centre Denis Hurley his captain and also included the international duo of Ian Keatley (fly-half) and Keith Earls (outside centre).
Currently in his ninth season with Munster, Denis Hurley signed a one-year contract extension in January that will see him remain with the province until June 2016.

The Cork-man captains the side for the first time on his 145th appearance.

Meanwhile academy player Jack O'Donoghue will make his first PRO12 start for the province.
In the front row John Ryan and BJ Botha start on either side of Eusebio Guinazu. Botha is set to make his 90th appearance in the red of Munster while the versatile Guinazu makes his first start as hooker.
The experienced local duo of Donncha O'Callaghan and Billy Holland make up the second row with blindside Sean Dougall and openside Dave O'Callaghan joining academy number eight Jack O'Donoghue in the back row.

Having already made two PRO12 appearances this season – against Zebre and Ospreys – O'Donoghue penned a three year deal in January which will see him advance to development status for season 2015/16 and full contract status from 2016/17.
Following his involvement in last weekend's Six Nations victory over Italy Ian Keatley has been made available to the province this weekend and will partner Duncan Williams in the half-backs.
Keith Earls is another international representative available for selection and the Limerick native will join captain Denis Hurley in the midfield.
JJ Hanrahan starts at full-back for the third time this season with Ronan O'Mahony and Andrew Conwayon the left and right wing respectively.
After successfully rehabbing a knee injury sustained against Clermont Auvergne at Thomond Park in December, Dave Kilcoyne is named amongst the replacements, as are academy centre Rory Scannell and Garryowen scrum-half Neil Cronin, both of whom are in contention to make their second senior appearances for the province this weekend.

Meanwhile, Rhys Patchell will return to PRO12 action for Cardiff Blues.

Patchell will feature in league action for the first time since the start of November – when he also faced Munster – as Blues look to claim a crucial victory in Cork and climb the league table.

Cardiff's director of rugby Mark Hammett makes a total of eight changes to the team that started the last PRO12 game against Leinster in mid-January.

Wing Richard Smith is called into the starting line-up while Patchell will join forces with Lloyd Williams in a new-look halfback pairing. Cory Allen is back in midfield alongside Gavin Evans after being released by Wales.

Hooker Matthew Rees captains the team from the front row where he packs down alongside the called-up Sam Hobbs and Adam Jones.

A new second row pairing will see Filo Paulo and Macauley Cook, who this week agreed a new long-term deal at the region, combine.

Number eight Manoa Vosawai is also back in the starting line-up, with Josh Navidi moving to the number seven jersey as the Italian international returns.

Josh Turnbull is named at blindside flanker and will make his 100th appearance in the PRO12.

Centre Tom Isaacs is named among the replacements as Blues look to repeat the 17-6 victory they claimed the last time the two teams met at the Irish Independent Park back in January 2013.

"We're looking forward to returning to the PRO12 as we start a big month of fixtures as we look to move up the table," said Hammett.

"We've played really well at times this season without always getting the results. We now need to start getting some victories on the board.

"We welcome back a number of players who have been able to have a break for rest and recovery during the cup window and we look forward to seeing the benefit of that spell when we play in Ireland.”

Form: Munster's last eight fixtures in all tournaments have resulted in only three victories, however at home the Munstermen have lost just once in the Guinness PRO12 since Round One: 14-19 to Ospreys on 27 September.Munster have won their last 6 matches at Irish Independent Park in Cork since the Blues themselves won there on 5 January 2013. Cardiff Blues' last three matches in the PRO12 have all strangely been won by the away side on the day with the Welshmen winning their most recent away trip in the competition 11-9 against the Dragons at Rodney Parade. The Blues are winless against Irish provinces this season, slipping to four defeats and a draw in their encounters so far. Cardiff Blues only victory in their last nine encounters with Munster: 17-6 in Cork in January 2013. The Capital side's record in Cork is an impressive won three lost two.

The teams:
Munster: 15 JJ Hanrahan, 14 Andrew Conway, 13 Keith Earls, 12 Denis Hurley (c), 11 Ronan O'Mahony, 10 Ian Keatley, 9 Duncan Williams, 8 Jack O'Donoghue, 7 Dave O'Callaghan, 6 Sean Dougall, 5 Billy Holland, 4 Donncha O'Callaghan, 3 BJ Botha, 2 Eusebio Guinazu, 1 John Ryan.
Replacements: 16 Niall Scannell, 17 Dave Kilcoyne, 18 Stephen Archer, 19 Shane Buckley, 20 Paddy Butler, 21 Neil Cronin, 22 Rory Scannell, 23 Ivan Dineen.

Cardiff Blues: 15 Joaquin Tuculet, 14 Richard Smith, 13 Cory Allen, 12 Gavin Evans, 11 Lucas Amorosino, 10 Rhys Patchell, 9 Lloyd Williams, 8 Manoa Vosawai, 7 Josh Navidi, 6 Josh Turnbull, 5 Filo Paulo, 4 Macauley Cook, 3 Adam Jones, 2 Matthew Rees (c), 1 Sam Hobbs.
Replacements: 16 Kristian Dacey, 17 Thomas Davies, 18Taufa'ao Filise, 19 Miles Normandale, 20 Ellis Jenkins, 21 Tavis Knoyle, 22 Gareth Davies, 23 Tom Isaacs

Date: Saturday, February 14
Venue: Irish Independent Park, Cork
Kick-off: 19:35 GMT
Referee: Lloyd Linton (Scotland)
Assistant Referees: Andrew McMenemy(Scotland), Duncan McClement (Scotland)
TMO: David Changleng (Scotland)