Preview: Ulster v Munster

Date published: May 8 2015

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Ulster host Munster in a potential preview of the Pro12 play-offs in a crucial Irish derby in Belfast.

Both teams are assured of finishing in the top four, but there is still a home semi-final to play for over the last two weeks of the regular season.

Ulster host Munster before travelling to Glasgow, while Munster will hope to take a big step towards a home semi-final before next week's home clash with the Dragons.

The teams are currently separated by a point, with Munster in second and Ulster third, as the pair try to close the gap on Glasgow at the top.

While this will be Ulster's final regular season game of the season at the Kingspan Stadium, they could yet return twice if they earn a home semi-final, with the final also taking place in Belfast.

Roger Wilson will become Ulster’s most capped Pro12 player when he lines out for the province playing his 132nd game in the competition and takes over from Paddy Wallace as the Ulster player to have made the most appearances in the competition.

Wilson will start at number eight for the game which will see Ulster aim to complete the regular Pro12 season unbeaten at home.

The team sees just one change from the side that defeated Leinster in Belfast a fortnight ago. Winger, Craig Gilroy, picked up a hamstring strain in training this week and is replaced on the left wing by Peter Nelson.

Meanwhile head coach Anthony Foley has made three changes to his Munster XV for the clash. 

As expected one of those changes sees Paul O'Connell return for the penultimate round as he partners Donnacha Ryan in the second row, with the Tipperary lock making his second start of the season. It is also the first time the players have started in the second row together since Perpignan away in December 2013.

The second change to the forwards sees hooker Eusebio Guinazu trading places with Duncan Casey this week, as the Argentinian international packs down with Dave Kilcoyne and Stephen Archer. 

Denis Hurley is the only change to the backline as he joins Andrew Smith in midfield with Simon Zebo, Keith Earls and Felix Jones continuing as the back three. 

Form: Ulster are the best home side in the Pro12 having won all ten games in Belfast and tallied 44 league points in the process. Ulster's only defeat in the last eight rounds of Pro12 rugby came on a trip to Newport Gwent Dragons on 8th March. Munster have also suffered just one defeat in their last eight Pro12 encounters: 12-26 at Ospreys in round 17. The Munstermen are the tournament's best away team having picked up 30 league points on the road this season. Munster's only defeat to a fellow Irish province this season came when they visited Connacht on New Year's Day. Munster were victorious 21-20 when the two sides met in Limerick in round 9, and have not achieved a season's double over the Ulstermen since season 2010/11, which was also the only occasion the Munstermen have been victorious in Belfast since 2007.

The teams:

Ulster: 15 Louis Ludik, 14 Tommy Bowe, 13 Jared Payne, 12 Darren Cave, 11 Peter Nelson, 10 Paddy Jackson, 9 Ruan Pienaar, 8 Roger Wilson, 7 Chris Henry, 6 Iain Henderson, 5 Francois van der Merwe, 4 Dan Tuohy, 3 Wiehahn Herbst, 2 Rory Best (c), 1 Callum Black
Replacements: 16 Rob Herring, 17 Andrew Warwick, 18 Bronson Ross, 19 Robbie Diack, 20 Clive Ross, 21 Paul Marshall, 22 Ian Humphreys, 23 Stuart McCloskey

Munster: 15 Felix Jones, 14 Keith Earls, 13 Andrew Smith, 12 Denis Hurley, 11 Simon Zebo, 10 Ian Keatley, 9 Conor Murray, 8 CJ Stander, 7 Tommy O'Donnell, 6 Peter O'Mahony (c), 5 Paul O'Connell, 4 Donnacha Ryan, 3 Stephen Archer, 2 Eusebio Guinazu, 1 Dave Kilcoyne
Replacements: 16 Duncan Casey, 17 John Ryan, 18 BJ Botha, 19 Billy Holland, 20 Jack O'Donoghue, 21 Duncan Williams, 22 JJ Hanrahan, 23 Ronan O'Mahony

Date: Saturday, May 9
Venue: Kingspan Stadium, Belfast
Kick-off: 14:40 local (13:40 GMT)
Referee: Nigel Owens (Wales)
Assistant Referees: Dudley Phillips (Ireland), Nigel Correll (Ireland)
TMO: Kevin Beggs (Ireland)

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