Preview: Munster v Ulster

Date published: November 27 2014

Munster boss Anthony Foley has named a strong matchday squad to face Ulster in Friday’s PRO12 derby at Thomond Park.

Munster boss Anthony Foley has named a strong matchday squad to face Ulster in Friday’s PRO12 derby at Thomond Park.

Five personnel changes are made to the starting line-up that earned a bonus point victory last weekend against the Dragons at Rodney Parade, with centre Pat Howard set to make his first start for the province.

One change in the front row see’s BJ Botha promoted from the bench to start at tighthead alongside hooker Duncan Casey and loosehead John Ryan.

Donncha O’Callaghan will once again captain the side and partner Billy Holland in the second row.

In the back row, Robin Copeland moves to six with Paddy Butler switching to openside, while CJ Stander comes back into the starting line-up at number eight.

Duncan Williams is another returning to the starting 15 at scrum-half alongside Ian Keatley in the halfbacks.

Having made his debut from the bench last weekend, centre Howard will make his first start for Munster as he lines up outside Denis Hurley in the midfield.

In the back three, Gerhard van den Heever comes in on the right wing with Ronan O’Mahony on the opposite flank, while JJ Hanrahan makes his second consecutive start at full-back.

Three returning internationals – Dave Kilcoyne, Tommy O’Donnell and Felix Jones – are named on the bench.

As Cathal Sheridan is to undergo further investigation on a forearm injury picked up in the Dragons game, in-form Garryowen scrum-half Neil Cronin is included amongst the replacements.
Meanwhile, Ireland hooker Rory Best will start for Ulster.

Best’s inclusion is one of four changes to the side that beat Ospreys at Ravenhill last Friday night.

In the only change to the back-line, Ian Humphreys starts at fly-half in place of the injured Paddy Jackson.

Stuart Olding remains at full-back, with Louis Ludik on the right wing and Craig Gilroy on the left. Stuart McCloskey and Darren Cave continue their partnership in midfield with Paul Marshall starting at scrum-half.

Callum Black and Wiehahn Herbst start either side of Best in the front row with Alan O’Connor coming into the second row alongside Franco van der Merwe.

In the back row, Nick Williams is named at number eight with Roger Wilson switching across to blindside flanker. Sean Reidy continues at openside.

Robbie Diack, who represented Ireland in the Autumn series, is named on the bench, as is Michael Allen, who has recovered from a shoulder injury.

Forwards Rob Herring, Andrew Warwick, Declan Fitzpatrick and Lewis Stevenson and backs Michael Heaney and Peter Nelson complete the matchday squad.

Form: Munster have won their last six matches in all tournaments, and are the form team in the Guinness PRO12 having claimed 23 league points from their last six matches. Surprisingly the Munstermen have secured more points on their travels this season than they have from their four home games. Ulster’s sole defeat this season in the Guinness PRO12 came at Zebre in round 4. The Ulstermen have lost only one of their last five regular season games played at the homes of their provincial rivals: 6-19 to Leinster at the RDS Arena on 28th December. Ulster have lost just one of their last four encounters with Munster: 10-24 at Thomond Park in December 2012 and are searching for a second successive victory in Limerick for the first time since the early 1990s.

The teams:

Munster: 15 JJ Hanrahan, 14 Gerhard van den Heever, 13 Pat Howard, 12 Denis Hurley, 11 Ronan O’Mahony, 10 Ian Keatley, 9 Duncan Williams, 8 CJ Stander, 7 Paddy Butler, 6 Robin Copeland, 5 Billy Holland; 4 Donncha O’Callaghan (c), 3 BJ Botha, 2 Duncan Casey, 1 John Ryan.
Replacements: 16 Kevin O’Byrne, 17 Dave Kilcoyne, 18 Stephen Archer, 19 Tommy O’Donnell, 20 Sean Dougall, 21 Neil Cronin, 22 Andrew Smith, 23 Felix Jones.

Ulster: 15 Stuart Olding, 14 Louis Ludik, 13 Darren Cave, 12 Stuart McCloskey, 11 Craig Gilroy, 10 Ian Humphreys, 9 Paul Marshall, 8 Nick Williams; 7 Sean Reidy, 6 Roger Wilson, 5 Franco van der Merwe, 4 Alan O’Connor, 3 Wiehahn Herbst, 2 Rory Best (c), 1 Callum Black.
Replacements: 16 Rob Herring, 17 Andrew Warwick, 18 Declan Fitzpatrick, 19 Lewis Stevenson, 20 Robbie Diack, 21 Michael Heaney, 22 Michael Allen, 23 Peter Nelson.

Date: Friday, November 28
Kick-off: 19:35 GMT
Venue: Thomond Park
Referee: Ian Davies (Wales)
Assistant referees: Gary Conway (Ireland), Paul Haycock (Ireland)
Television match official: Kevin Beggs (Ireland)
Assessor: John Sheehan (Ireland)