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Preview: Connacht v Munster

16th April 2010 11:20

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bernie upton connacht

In at lock: Bernie Upton

Connacht have made just one change to their line-up for Sunday's derby Magners League fixture against Munster at the Sportsground.

Following their memorable Amlin Challenge Cup quarter-final victory over Bourgoin, Bernie Upton comes in to start at lock with Michael McCarthy reverting to the replacements bench.

Meanwhile, the Munster pack has a familiar ring to it but three of the backline will make their senior competitive debut on Sunday.

U20 international wings Simon Zebo and Danny Barnes and Thomond's Declan Cusack are named in the side that will be led by Mick O'Driscoll for the trip to Galway.

The opportunity presents itself because of the injury situation among the backs in the Munster squad that sees Denis Hurley, Doug Howlett, Ian Dowling, Keith Earls Jean de Villiers and Barry Murphy all nursing injuries of varying degrees.

But in pre-season and British & Cup games the newbie backline trio have shown what they're capable of and Sunday's step up is well within their capabilities.

Zebo was a regular on this year's U20 Championship-winning side while Barnes was called into the U20 squad last summer for the World Cup in Japan as was replacement scrum-half for Sunday, Conor Murray.

Declan Cusack has been Director of Operations on Anthony Foley's British & Irish Cup side playing a crucial part in their march to the semi-final.

Paul Warwick and Peter Stringer provide the wily presence in the backs, with Warwick at inside centre alongside Tom Gleeson and Scott Deasy at full-back.

Form: Connacht have beaten Munster only once in their last 32 meetings since 1986: 12-6 at the Sportsground in the Magners League on 28 December 2008. Connacht's only defeat in their last five games was 14-17 at Leinster on 27 March. Connacht have not lost at home since September, when Ulster came to the Sportsground and left securing a 30-6 victory. Munster reside in a Play-Off spot in the Magners League table despite the fact that they have lost six of their last eleven games in the competition. Munster's only away win in the Magners League so far this season was 22-20 at Scarlets on 19 September.

The teams:

Connacht: 15 Gavin Duffy 14 Troy Nathan 13 Niva Ta'auso 12 Keith Matthews 11 Fionn Carr 10 Ian Keatley 9 Frank Murphy 8 George Naoupu, 7 Johnny O'Connor, 6 John Muldoon (capt), 5 Bernie Upton, 4 Michael Swift, 3 Jamie Hagan, 2 Sean Cronin, 1 Brett Wilkinson.
Replacements: 16 Adrian Flavin, 17 Ronan Loughney, 18 Michael McCarthy, 19 Mike McComish, 20 Conor O'Loughlin, 21 Miah Nikora, 22 Aidan Wynne.

Munster: 15 Scott Deasy, 14 Simon Zebo, 13 Tom Gleeson, 12 Paul Warwick, 11 Danny Barnes, 10 Declan Cusack, 9 Peter Stringer, 8 James Coughlan, 7 Niall Ronan, 6 Nick Williams, 5 Billy Holland, 4 Mick O'Driscoll (c), 3 Tony Buckley, 2 Damien Varley, 1 Dave Ryan.
Replacements: 16 Denis Fogarty, 17 Julien Brugnaut, 18 Dave Foley, 19 Peter O'Mahoney, 20 Conor Murray, 21 Jeremy Manning, 22 Sean Scanlon.

Date: Sunday, April 18
Kick-off: 17:05 BST
Venue: Sportsground
Referee: Alain Rolland (Ireland)
Assistant Referees: Tbc (Ireland), Michael Black (Ireland)
TMO: John Carvill (Ireland)

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