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Preview: Munster v Connacht

23rd December 2011 12:56

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John Hayes Munster 2011

John Hayes: Playing in his final match for Munster

Munster welcome Connacht to Thomond Park in Limerick for their Pro12 derby on St Stephen's Day.

John Hayes will win his 217th and final Munster cap when he starts alongside another 200 capper, Marcus Horan, in the front-row.

Munster's starting XV shows 11 changes from the one that saw off the Scarlets last weekend, with just Keith Earls,Simon Zebo, Donncha O'Callaghan and Niall Ronan the quartet retained.

Following Connacht's excellent display against Gloucester in the Heineken Cup last weekend head coach Eric Elwood has chosen not to tinker with the side too much, making just one enforced change.

Fetu'u Vainikolo replaces Mark McCrea on the wing. McCrea was forced to retire from last weekend's clash with a strained hamstring giving the Tongan international wing a berth in the starting XV.

Connacht know that Thomond Park has not been a happy hunting ground for the team in recent years but following spirited back-to-back displays against Aviva Premiership giants Gloucester the squad know that if they continue this rich vein of form that elusive win is just around the corner.

Connacht's hugely experienced pack will scrum down with no fewer than 747 caps for the province between them while the dynamic young back-line will be marshalled by captain Gavin Duffy from fullback.

Form: While Connacht started the season well, they have slipped down the table, with Munster climbing in the opposite direction to currently sit third a position they are likely to maintain if past results are anything to go by.

The teams:

Connacht: 15 Gavin Duffy (c), 14 Fetu'u Vainikolo, 13 Eoin Griffin, 12 Dave McSharry, 11 Tiernan O'Halloran, 10 Niall O'Connor, 9 Frank Murphy, 8 John Muldoon, 7 Johnny O'Connor, 6 Dave Gannon, 5 Mike McCarthy, 4 George Naoupu, 3 Ronan Loughney, 2 Ethienne Reynecke, 1 Brett Wilkinson.
Replacements: 16 Adrian Flavin, 17 Dylan Rogers, 18 Rodney Ah You, 19 Mick Kearney, 20 Eoin McKeon, 21 Paul O'Donohoe, 22 Matthew Jarvis, 23 Kyle Tonetti.

Munster: 15 Sean Scanlon, 14 Luke O'Dea, 13 Keith Earls, 12 Danny Barnes, 11 Simon Zebo, 10 Ian Keatley, 9 Tomas O'Leary, 8 Paddy Butler, 7 Niall Ronan, 6 Billy Holland, 5 Mick O'Driscoll capt, 4 Donncha O'Callaghan, 3 John Hayes, 2 Denis Fogarty, 1 Marcus Horan.
Replacements: 16 Sean Henry, 17 Dave Kilcoyne, 18 BJ Botha, 19 Ian Nagle, 20 James Coughlan, 21 Duncan Williams, 22 Scott Deasy, 23 Tom Gleeson.

Date: Monday 26 December
Venue: Thomond Park
Kick-off: 19.45
Referee: Dudley Phillips
Assistant referees: John Carvill, Brian Macneice

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