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Preview: Munster v Ulster

28th December 2012 13:10

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munster v ulster craig gilroy

Wing threat: Craig Gilroy

Peter O'Mahony, Conor Murray, Simon Zebo and Ronan O'Gara are all included in the Munster squad for the RaboDirect PRO12 clash with Ulster.

But while O'Mahony, Murray and Zebo start, O'Gara is named on the bench with Ian Keatley retaining the number 10 jersey though this time he'll start alongside Murray in place of Peter Stringer whose late intervention in that Connacht game prevented the match winning score.

There's a return from injury for Damian Varley and Felix Jones (bench) while Donncha O'Callaghan and Billy Holland are the only combination up front who remain intact from a week ago in a game that sees Denis Hurley win his 100th Munster cap.

Meanwhile, Mark Anscombe has made eleven changes to the starting XV for Ulster's trip to Thomond Park.

Only Craig Gilroy and Luke Marshall in the backs, and Neil McComb and Robbie Diack in the forwards, are retained from the team which beat Leinster 27-19 last Friday night.

Despite resting a number of players and having a large contingent involved in an Ireland training camp in Dublin this weekend, Ulster are able to field an all Irish-qualified match day squad.

Adam D'Arcy will make his first start of the season at fullback and will be joined in the back three by speedy youngsters Chris Cochrane and Gilroy. Michael Allen will partner Luke Marshall in midfield, with Paul Marshall and Niall O'Connor forming a new half back combination.

Up front, Callum Black, Rob Herring and Adam Macklin make up an all new front row, while Lewis Stevenson has returned from an eight week injury lay off to partner McComb in the engine room. Roger Wilson will captain the team from number 8 and he will be ably assisted in the back row by Mike McComish and Diack.

Form: Munster's only defeat in their last five RaboDirect PRO12 fixtures was 6-13 to Scarlets at Musgrave Park on 25 November. The Munstermen's solitary loss at Thomond Park in this tournament since October 2011 came at the hands of Leinster in March. Ulster have now equalled Leinster's best ever start to a PRO12 season with eleven straight victories, and have won all eight away games they have played in all competitions this season. The Ulstermen have won all three games against fellow Irish provinces this season, but so far all those encounters have been at Ravenhill. The last four meetings between the two sides in the RaboDirect PRO12 have all been won by the home side on the day, while Ulster have not won at Thomond Park in the competition since 2009, although they did of course triumph there in last season's European Cup quarter-final.

Munster: 15 Denis Hurley, 14 Doug Howlett (c), 13 Casey Laulala, 12 James Downey, 11 Simon Zebo, 10 Ian Keatley, 9 Conor Murray, 8 Paddy Butler, 7 Tommy O'Donnell, 6 Peter O'Mahony, 5 Billy Holland, 4 Donncha O'Callaghan, 3 BJ Botha, 2 Damian Varley, 1 Wian du Preez.
Replacements: 16 Mike Sherry, 17 Marcus Horan, 18 Stephen Archer, 19 Dave O'Callaghan, 20 James Coughlan, 21 Peter Stringer, 22 Ronan O'Gara, 23 Felix Jones.

Ulster: 15 Adam D'Arcy, 14 Chris Cochrane, 13 Michael Allen, 12 Luke Marshall, 11 Craig Gilroy, 10 Niall O'Connor, 9 Paul Marshall, 8 Roger Wilson , 7 Mike McCormish, 6 Robbie Diack, 5 Neil McComb, 4 Louis Stevenson, 3 Adam Macklin, 2 Rob Herring, 1 Callum Black.
Replacements: 16 Niall Annett, 17 Ricky Lutton , 18 Tom Court, 19 Alan O'Connor, 20 Ali Birch, 21 Michael Heaney, 22 Stuart Olding, 23 Ricky Andrew.

Date: Saturday, December 29
Kick-off: 5:30
Venue: Thomond Park
Referee: Alain Rolland
Assistant Referees: Dudley Phillips, Sean Gallagher
TMO: Kevin Beggs

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