Preview: Connacht v Munster

21st Dec 2012, 14:14

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Munster captain: James Coughlan

Munster captain: James Coughlan

Connacht boss Eric Elwood has made two changes to the starting XV for Saturday's PRO12 clash with Munster at The Sportsground.

Connacht boss Eric Elwood has made two changes to the starting XV for Saturday's PRO12 clash with Munster at The Sportsground.

Elwood's troops have won two of their last three interprovincial encounters and are pursuing a clean sweep of 2012 home victories against the three other provinces.

The back line remains unchanged while up front, Ronan Loughney makes way for Nathan White who captains the side tomorrow.

Versatile forward George Naoupu will start in the second row alongside Mike McCarthy. Veteran lock Michael Swift and 22-year-old centre Eoin Griffin have both returned from injury and are named on the bench for tomorrow's derby clash.

Eoghan Grace, who has captained the Connacht Eagles this season, scoring a try in last weekend's B&I Cup victory over Cross Keys, is also named on the bench.

Meanwhile, James Coughlan, who won his 100th cap at Vicarage Road last Sunday, is just one of five players who started against Saracens listed to line-out on Saturday in a game that sees the return from injury of Denis Hurley, Tommy O'Donnell and Sean Dougall who had a run out against his old club Rotherham Titans in the British & Irish Cup last Friday.

Form: Connacht have won just one of their last five RaboDirect PRO12 matches: 18-3 at home to Benetton Treviso on 3 November. Connacht have won two of their last three encounters with fellow Irish provinces, and are going for a clean sweep of victories against the three other provinces in Galway this season. Munster have won three of their last four PRO12 games, whilst the Munstermen's solitary away victory since the opening weekend was 24-18 at Cardiff Blues on 2 November. Munster have won just one of their last four games against fellow Irish provinces in the PRO12. Connacht's only win over Munster since 1986 was 12-6 at the Sportsground on 28 December 2008.

The teams:

Connacht: 15 Robbie Henshaw, 14 Tiernan O'Halloran, 13 Danie Poolman, 12 Dave McSharry, 11 Fetu'u Vainikolo, 10 Dan Parks, 9 Kieran Marmion, 8 Eoin McKeon, 7 Johnny O'Connor, 6 Andrew Browne, 5 Mike McCarthy, 4 George Nauopu, 3 Nathan White (c), 2 Jason Harris-Wright, 1 Brett Wilkinson.
Replacements: 16 Ethienne Reynecke, 17 Dennis Buckley, 18 Ronan Loughney, 19 Michael Swift, 20 Eoghan Grace, 21 Paul O'Donohoe, 22 Matthew Jarvis, 23 Eoin Griffin.

Munster: 15 Denis Hurley, 14 Johne Murphy, 13 Casey Laulala, 12 James Downey, 11 Luke O'Dea, 10 Ian Keatley, 9 Conor Murray, 8 James Coughlan, 7 Tommy O'Donnell, 6 Paddy Butler, 5 Billy Holland, 4 Donncha O'Callaghan, 3 Stephen Archer, 2 Mike Sherry, 1 David Kilcoyne.
Replacements: 16 Sean Henry, 17 Wian du Preez, 18 BJ Botha, 19 Dave Foley, 20 Sean Dougall, 21 Duncan Williams, 22 JJ Hanrahan, 23 Danny Barnes.

Date: Saturday, December 22
Kick-off: 5:15
Venue: The Sportsground
Referee: Dudley Phillips
Assistant Referees: Paul Haycock, Simon McDowell
TMO: Marshall Kilgore