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Preview: Munster v Ulster

06th April 2012 12:07

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Stephen Ferris Ulster nov 2011

Fit to start: Stephen Ferris

Two former champions collide in the penultimate Heineken Cup quarter-final of the weekend as Ulster travel to Limerick to face Munster on Sunday.

In their only previous meeting this campaign in the RaboDirect PRO12, Ulster came out on top 33-17 at Ravenhill with a four-try bonus-point. That impressive December win was a comprehensive one but was one that saw Tony McGahan's outfit minus their first-choice Ireland internationals.

So much will be different this time around.

Despite going into the game with two defeats in their last three games, the Heineken Cup has been something of a back garden for the Red Army and with plenty of competition experience - and the 16th man of their home venue - Munster understandable go into this one as favourites.

McGahan has acted on quickly after last week's loss to Leinster and makes seven changes to his side, handing first Heineken Cup starts to hooker Mike Sherry and flank Tommy O'Donnell.

Sherry has three Heineken Cup appearances off the bench to his credit all from last season while O'Donnell only appearance at this level was when he replaced James Coughlan in the 77th minute of Munster's game against Scarlets in Thomond Park back in December.

In the backs, there are two changes where a return from injury by Denis Hurley and Conor Murray sees Johne Murphy and Tomas O'Leary slip to the replacements bench.

Up front Wian du Preez starts his seventh consecutive Heineken Cup game and Donnacha Ryan and Paul O'Connell return from injury. In the back-row, Peter O'Mahony switches from seven to six and O'Donnell is preferred to David Wallace who is named on the bench.

Meanwhile, Ulster have made just one change to the starting team that registered a 45-7 victory over Aironi at Ravenhill last Friday. Dan Tuohy returns to partner Johann Muller.

The backline has a settled look about it with Ruan Pienaar and Ian Humphreys continuing at half-back. Paddy Wallace and Darren Cave have been looking dangerous in midfield and will thrive on the opportunity of quick ball on Sunday. Craig Gilroy adds youth to an experienced back three that also includes Stefan Terblanche and Andrew Trimble.

The only other change sees Nevin Spence on the bench at the expense of Ian Whitten.

Ones to watch:

For Munster: Mr Heineken Cup himself will be looking to continue his love affair with this competition this weekend. Ronan O'Gara must fire from the tee and also direct matters.

For Ulster: He is fit to start. Ireland blindside flank Stephen Ferris is invaluable for Ulster and his availability is massive to the visitors in Limerick on Sunday. Huge boost to them.

Head-to-head: We look in on the dark arts of the front-row where former Ulster tighthead BJ Botha will take on the man wearing number one in white, Tom Court. It was such a tough afternoon for Court against England but since returning to provincial duty, he has slotted back in his more favoured position of loosehead. His battle with Botha will be interesting as they know all about each other from their two years together at Ravenhill. Sparks should fly.

Prediction: Going for an away win. Ulster by 2!

Rugby Union betting odds

The teams:

Munster: 15 Felix Jones, 14 Denis Hurley, 13 Keith Earls, 12 Lifeimi Mafi, 11 Simon Zebo, 10 Ronan O'Gara, 9 Conor Murray, 8 James Coughlan, 7 Tommy O'Donnell, 6 Peter O'Mahony, 5 Paul O'Connell, 4 Donnacha Ryan, 3 BJ Botha, 2 Mike Sherry, 1 Wian du Preez.
Replacements: 16 Damien Varley, 17 Marcus Horan, 18 Stephen Archer, 19 Donncha O'Callaghan, 20 David Wallace, 21 Tomas O'Leary, 22 Ian Keatley, 23 Johne Murphy.

Ulster: 15 Stefan Terblanche, 14 Andrew Trimble, 13 Darren Cave, 12 Paddy Wallace, 11 Craig Gilroy, 10 Ian Humphreys, 9 Ruan Pienaar, 8 Pedrie Wannenburg, 7 Chris Henry, 6 Stephen Ferris, 5 Dan Tuohy, 4 Johann Muller (capt), 3 John Afoa, 2 Rory Best, 1 Tom Court.
Replacements: 16 Nigel Brady, 17 Paddy McAllister, 18 Adam Macklin, 19 Lewis Stevenson, 20 Willie Faloon, 21 Paul Marshall, 22 Nevin Spence, 23 Adam D'Arcy.

Date: Sunday, April 8
Kick-off: 13:45 BST
Venue: Thomond Park
Referee: Romain Poite (France)
Assistant referees: Jérôme Garces (France), Matthieu Raynal (France)

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