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Preview: Munster v Connacht

26th December 2013 12:25

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SKY_MOBILE Frank Murphy Connacht

Centurion: Frank Murphy

Connacht boss Pat Lam makes three changes to his starting lineup to take on Munster in the Pro12 at Thomond Park on Friday.

Frank Murphy will earn his 100th Connacht cap when he starts at scrum-half. The Cork man joined Connacht in 2008 but missed out on last season due to injury. This fixture against Munster will represent his fourth game of the season.

Connacht's leading try scorer Fionn Carr has been named on the right wing while Gavin Duffy moves to full back to allow Irish International Robbie Henshaw switch to the centre.

In the pack, the front five remains unchanged from last week but the back row sees Andrew Browne promoted from the bench to start at blindside flanker while John Muldoon switches to the openside. Eoin McKeon makes up an all-Galway back row wearing the number eight jersey.

On the replacements bench, lock Aly Muldowney returns to the fray and 20-year-old Academy back Darragh Leader has been brought in as cover.

"Despite being boosted by the win on Saturday against the Dragons, we lost a couple of guys through that last game and it's hugely disappointing to have to plan without Dave (McSharry), especially on the back of losing our other midfielders Danie (Poolman), Craig (Ronaldson) and Kyle (Tonetti) to injury," said Lam.

"Kieran Marmion has had a high work load this season having played in every game and taking part in a two-day national camp earlier this week. So he is named on the bench for tomorrow's game. We're delighted for Frank to achieve his 100th Connacht cap, especially after such a long road to recovery last season."

Meanwhile, Munster head coach Rob Penney continues with the squad rotation this week as JJ Hanrahan is the only survivor from last weekend's starting XV against Scarlets to start on Friday

Saturday's front row replacements Niall Scannell and John Ryan move in to the starting XV joining James Cronin for the round 11 clash, with Scannell making his first start at this level after making his debut last weekend as a replacement.

Donncha O'Callaghan also makes the step up and starts next to Dave Foley in the second-row while Paddy Butler marks his return from injury with a starting place in the back-row, joining Sean Dougall and James Coughlan who captains the squad for the second time this season.

Hanrahan is joined in the half-backs by Duncan Williams this week with Gerry Hurley named in the replacements for the first time this season. The Cork Con man is line to make a return to league action against the same opposition he last played exactly six years ago.

Ronan O'Mahony who scored the winning try in the 83rd minute last Saturday is named in the new look starting backline with Johne Murphy joining James Downey in the centre partnership for the first time this season.

Form: Munster retained their top spot in the Pro12 courtesy of their last gasp 16-10 win over Scarlets in Cork on Saturday evening. The Munstermen have lost only one of their last eleven Pro12 fixtures: 19-29 in Treviso on 20th September. Munster have lost just once to a fellow Irish province in their last five such encounters, 16-22 at home to Leinster on 13th April. Connacht's 14-11 victory over the Dragons in Galway on Saturday snapped an eight game losing streak in the Pro12. Connacht have not won away from home in the tournament since they visited Edinburgh in April, whilst their only victory at the home of another Irish province in the history of the Pro12 remains 26-23 over Leinster at Donnybrook in September 2002. Munster have won their last nine fixtures with Connacht, whilst Connacht have beaten the Munstermen just once since 1986, 12-6 in Galway in December 2008.

The teams:

Munster: 15 Felix Jones, 14 Keith Earls, 13 Johne Murphy, 12 James Downey, 11 Ronan O'Mahony, 10 JJ Hanrahan, 9 Duncan Williams, 8 James Coughlan, 7 Sean Dougall, 6 Paddy Butler, 5 Dave Foley, 4 Donncha O'Callaghan, 3 John Ryan, 2 Niall Scannell, 1 James Cronin.
Replacements: 16 Damian Varley, 17 Alan Cotter, 18 Stephen Archer, 19 Billy Holland, 20 CJ Stander, 21 Gerry Hurley, 22 Johnny Holland, 23 Denis Hurley.

Connacht: 15 Gavin Duffy, 14 Fionn Carr, 13 Robbie Henshaw, 12 Eoin Griffin, 11 Matt Healy, 10 Dan Parks, 9 Frank Murphy, 8 Eoin McKeon, 7 John Muldoon, 6 Andrew Browne, 5 Craig Clarke (c), 4 Mick Kearney, 3 Nathan White, 2 Jason Harris-Wright, 1 Brett Wilkinson.
Replacements: 16 Dave Heffernan, 17 Denis Buckley, 18 Rodney Ah You, 19 Aly Muldowney, 20 George Naoupu, 21 Kieran Marmion, 22 Jack Carty, 23 Darragh Leader.

Date: Friday, 27 December
Venue: Thomond Park
Kick-off: 1915 GMT
Referee: Dudley Phillips (Ire)
Assistant referees: Sean Gallagher, Eanna O'Dowd (both Ire)
TMO: Alan Rogan (Ire)

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