Preview: Munster v Ulster

Date published: October 29 2015

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Returning internationals Simon Zebo and Donnacha Ryan are named in Munster's matchday 23 that will face Ulster at Thomond Park on Friday.

New signing Mario Sagario is in line to make his first appearance for the province as in total head coach Anthony Foley makes seven changes to the starting XV that lost away to Scarlets last week.

James Cronin and Mike Sherry come back in and join BJ Botha in the front-row, while in the second-row, Dave Foley starts at number four for the first time this season with Mark Chisholm continuing at five.

In the back-row, captain CJ Stander makes the switch to blindside and Jack O'Donoghue returns at openside while Robin Copeland reverts to number eight for the home encounter.

After featuring twice from the bench in Munster's most recent league encounters, Tomás O'Leary will make his first start since returning to the province in partnering Ian Keatley in the half-backs.

Francis Saili comes back in to start alongside Denis Hurley in the midfield for the first time while the final change comes in the back-three and sees returning international Zebo start on the right wing. Gerhard van den Heever remains on the left wing as does Andrew Conway at full-back.

Meanwhile, Darren Cave and Paddy Jackson have been named in Ulster's starting XV for the first inter-pro of the season, while fellow Ireland player Chris Henry has been included on the bench.

Cave and Jackson made replacement appearances last week in the win over Cardiff Blues as Ulster extended their unbeaten run at Kingspan Stadium to fourteen PRO12 games.

There are two other changes in the starting team as Neil Doak continues to rotate his squad during a block of sixteen consecutive fixtures.

Peter Nelson returns to the side at full-back and is joined in the back three by Craig Gilroy and Andrew Trimble. Paul Marshall and Stuart McCloskey, both of whom scored tries against Cardiff, are retained at scrum-half and inside centre respectively.

The only change up front sees Andy Warwick replace Callum Black at loosehead prop, joining captain Rob Herring and Wiehahn Herbst in the front-row. Lewis Stevenson and Franco van der Merwe continue their second-row partnership, with Roger Wilson, Sean Reidy and last week's man of the match, Nick Williams, once again combining in the back-row.

Henry, who competed at the Rugby World Cup with Cave and Jackson, will provide cover for the loose forward trio in Limerick. Dan Tuohy has followed the return-to-play protocols after his concussion in the Edinburgh game and will join Henry on the bench.

Form: Munster's perfect start to the new Guinness PRO12 season ended with their 22-25 defeat at Scarlets on Friday. The Munstermen have not lost back-to-back regular season fixtures in the same campaign since April 2013. Munster have won their last 11 home matches in all tournaments since losing out to Clermont Auvergne in the European Cup in Limerick in December. Ulster's last seven matches in the Guinness PRO12 have all been won by the home side on the day, whilst the Ulstermen's most recent success on the road came when they visited Connacht in April. Munster were undefeated against Ulster last season, winning the home clash at Thomond Park 21-20 and then drawing 23-all at Kingspan Stadium in May. Ulster have won just once in the PRO12 in Limerick since 2009: 19-17 in May 2014.

The teams:

Munster: 15 Andrew Conway, 14 Simon Zebo, 13 Francis Saili, 12 Denis Hurley, 11 Gerhard van den Heever, 10 Ian Keatley, 9 Tomás O'Leary, 8 Robin Copeland, 7 Jack O'Donoghue, 6 CJ Stander (c), 5 Mark Chisholm, 4 Dave Foley, 3 BJ Botha, 2 Mike Sherry, 1 James Cronin.
Replacements: 16 Duncan Casey, 17 John Ryan, 18 Mario Sagario, 19 Donnacha Ryan, 20 Jordan Coghlan, 21 Duncan Williams, 22 Rory Scannell, 23 Ronan O'Mahony.

Ulster: 15 Peter Nelson, 14 Craig Gilroy, 13 Darren Cave, 12 Stuart McCloskey, 11 Andrew Trimble, 10 Paddy Jackson, 9 Paul Marshall, 8 Nick Williams, 7 Sean Reidy, 6 Roger Wilson, 5 Franco van der Merwe, 4 Lewis Stevenson, 3 Wiehahn Herbst, 2 Rob Herring (c), 1 Andrew Warwick.
Replacements: 16 John Andrew, 17 Callum Black, 18 Ricky Lutton, 19 Dan Tuohy, 20 Chris Henry, 21 Paul Rowley, 22 Ian Humphreys, 23 Sammy Arnold.

Date: Friday, October 30
Venue: Thomond Park
Kick-off: 18:00 GMT
Referee: Marius Mitrea (FIR, 42nd competition game)
Assistant Referees: Gary Conway, Nigel Correll (both IRFU)
Citing Commissioner: Eddie Wigglesworth (IRFU)
TMO: Alan Rogan (IRFU)

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