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Preview: Munster v Cardiff Blues

23rd February 2012 11:53

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Chris Czekaj

Chris Czekaj: Starting at full-back

Cardiff Blues have made three changes to their side for Friday's PRO12 match against Munster at Thomond Park.

The Blues have recorded victories over two Irish opponents in a fortnight with wins over Connacht and Ulster in Cardiff and now travel to Ireland to face a Munster side that have lost just one of their last eight fixtures in all competitions.

The Blues team shows three changes to the side that beat Ulster. In the backs Richie Rees starts in place of Lloyd Williams at scrum-half and Chris Czekaj starts at full-back in place of Ben Blair, who moves to the bench.

There is only one change amongst the forwards with Xavier Rush pulling out through illness and is replaced at number eight by Maama Molitika.

"Munster have a fantastic development programme and always seem to find those one or two players that when their internationals are away can step up for them," said Cardiff coach Justin Burnell.

"It's going to be quite interesting who their latest find is.

"They will be good at Thomond Park as always but it's a fantastic opportunity for our players to show their worth.

"There's always a great atmosphere and we relish going there to play in front of their very vocal support.

"The Blues and Munster both have a game in hand and if we can take their scalp it would put us above them and we would be back in the top four."

Meanwhile, Munster coach Tony McGahan makes five change to the side started against Treviso.

Four of those - Ronan O'Gara, Donnacha Ryan and Peter O'Mahony - are a direct result of Six Nations duty,.

Marcus Horan gets the nod over Wian du Preez at loose-head prop.

The absence of Denis Hurley - who acts as cover (24th man) - affords McGahan the opportunity to re-install Felix Jones at full-back. Jones looked sharp when he came on as a 60th minute replacement in Treviso and Tommy O'Donnell, who returned from injury in the 68th minute of that game, takes over on the openside from O'Mahony.

Ian Keatley who missed out on the trip to Italy after twisting an ankle, wears the number 10 shirt and Billy Holland operates alongside skipper Mick O'Driscoll in the second row.

Form: Munster were the only side to grab a try bonus point in the RaboDirect PRO12 last weekend, and have lost just one of their last eight fixtures in all competitions. Cardiff Blues' single reversal in their last six matches was 3-40 at Gloucester in the Anglo-Welsh Cup on 28 January. The Blues' only wins in Ireland in the past two seasons have both been at Connacht. Munster have won their last three matches against the Blues, whilst the Welshmen have not won on Munster soil since a 19-17 victory at Musgrave Park on 5 October 2007.

Rugby Union betting odds

The teams:

Munster: 15 Felix Jones, 14 Johne Murphy, 13 Danny Barnes, 12 Lifeimi Mafi, 11 Simon Zebo, 10 Ian Keatley, 9 Tomas O'Leary, 8 James Coughlan, 7 Tommy O'Donnell, 6 Dave O'Callaghan, 5 Mick O'Driscoll (capt), 4 Billy Holland, 3 BJ Botha, 2 Damien Varley, 1 Marcus Horan.
Replacements: 16 Denis Fogarty, 17 Wian du Preez, 18 Stephen Archer, 19 Dave Foley, 20 Paddy Butler, 21 Duncan Williams, 22 Scott Deasy, 23 Luke O'Dea.

Cardiff Blues: 15 Chris Czekaj, 14 Richard Mustoe, 13 Gavin Evans, 12 Gavin Henson, 11 Tom James, 10 Dan Parks, 9 Richie Rees, 8 Maama Molitika, 7 Martyn Williams, 6 Michael Paterson, 5 Paul Tito (c), 4 Cory Hill, 3 Scott Andrews, 2 Ryan Tyrell, 1 John Yapp.
Replacements: 16 T Rhys Thomas, 17 Nathan Trevett, 18 Sam Hobbs, 19 Macauley Cook, 20 Thomas Young, 21 Lewis Jones, 22 Ceri Sweeney 23 Ben Blair.

Date: Friday, 24 February
Venue: Thomond Park
Kick-off: 19.05 GMT
Referee: Leighton Hodges

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PosTeamPPts
1Leinster1969
2Ulster1965
3Munster1963
4Glasgow Warriors1860
5Ospreys1956