Preview: Munster v Connacht

Date published: May 5 2011

Tomas O'Leary returns to the Munster side for the first time since January for Friday's clash with Connacht at Thomond Park.

Tomas O'Leary returns to the Munster side for the first time since January for Friday's clash with Connacht at Thomond Park Stadium

O'Leary will partner Ronan O'Gara who is just one of four players retained in the starting XV from last weekend, the others being full-back Felix Jones, wing Doug Howlett and Denis Leamy who this time around starts at number eight. Alan Quinlan is also included in the starting XV.

Danny Barnes will partner Johne Murphy in the centre while Simon Zebo takes over from Keith Earls on the wing.
O'Gara, who will win his 206th Munster cap was honoured at a Civic Reception in Cork City Hall on Wednesday to mark his contribution to a sport he has illuminated since first making his Munster senior debut back in August 1997.
Jogging out with him on Friday will be his colleague through all those years, Alan Quinlan who wins his 211th Munster cap.
O'Gara was his usual fortright self at the media briefing in UL on Tuesday when he said his side's performance (against Harlequins) was 'unacceptable'.

“It was disappointing to play like that especially in front of our own supporters who turned up in huge number,” he said.

“We pride oursleves on giving them value for their loyalty and last weekend we failed. Simple as that. We have to hold our hands up, take responsibility. And we will. All we can do now is try and regain some of the ground we've lost when we get the opportunity and that opportunity presents itself on Friday.”

Meanwhile, Connacht will look to bounce back from their narrow defeat at the hands of Ulster in Ravenhill 2 weeks ago. In one of their most successful seasons to date, Connacht have won 7 matches, drawn 1 and earned 6 losing bonus points to sit in 9th position with only the Inter-Provincial derby this weekend left.
Eric Elwood's side has a blend of youth and experience with centurion's captain Johnny O'Connor, Brett Wilkinson John Muldoon, Gavin Duffy and Mike McCarthy complimenting dynamic Academy Graduates such as Dave Nolan, Eoin Griffin and Tiernan O'Halloran.
Frank Murphy starts at scrum-half, the former Leicester number nine has been capped by Connacht 70 times since joining in 2008. He's joined at fly-half by the league's second highest points scorer Ian Keatley. Keatleys' 2 tries, 20 conversions, 55 penalties and 1 drop goal leave him just 15 points behind the Ospreys Dan Biggar in the accumulator chart.

Form: Connacht have beaten Munster just once since 1986: 12-6 in Galway on 28 December 2008. Munster have won their last seven matches in the Magners League and have already qualified for a home semifinal at Thomond Park. Munster have won all 10 previous home games in the Magners League this season. Connacht currently reside in 9th place in the league table and will be all out to try to obtain their best ever league finish. Connacht's only away win in the Magners League this season was 19-17 at Glasgow in round three.

The teams:

Munster: 15 Felix Jones, 14 Doug Howlett, 13 Johne Murphy, 12 Danny Barnes, 11 Simon Zebo, 10 Ronan O'Gara, 9 Tomas O'Leary, 8 Denis Leamy, 7 Niall Ronan, 6 Alan Quinlan, 5 Paul O'Connell (c,)4 Donnacha Ryan, 3 John Hayes, 2 Mike Sherry, 1 Marcus Horan.
Replacements: 16 Damien Varley, 17 Wian du Preez, 18 S Archer, 19 IanNagle, 20 Tommy O'Donnell, 21 Peter Stringer, 22 Paul Warwick, 23 Deni Hurley.

Connacht: 15 Gavin Duffy, 14 Brian Tuohy, 13 Eoin Griffin, 12 Miah Nikora, 11 Fionn Carr, 10 Ian Keatley, 9 Frank Murphy, 8 John Muldoon, 7 Johnny O'Connor (C), 6 Andrew Browne, 5 Bernie Upton, 4 Mike McCarthy, 3 Jamie Hagan, 2 Sean Cronin, 1 Brett Wilkinson.
Replacements: 16 Adrian Flavin, 17 Ronan Loughney, 18 Dylan Rogers, 19 Dave Nolan, 20 Mike McComish, 21 Cillian Willis, 22 Troy Nathan, 22 Tiernan O'Halloran.

Date: Friday, May 6
Venue: Thomond Park Stadium
Kick-off: 19.05 BST
Referee: Dudley Phillips (IRFU)