Craig Casey returns for Munster against Connacht

Date published: March 4 2021

Munster head coach Johann van Graan has made eight changes to his starting line-up for Friday’s PRO14 derby with Connacht at Thomond Park.

A win for Munster will secure a place in the PRO14 final on Saturday, March 27.

Munster Rugby Academy fly-half Ben Healy comes into the run-on side alongside new Ireland cap Craig Casey with the 21-year-olds forming the half-back partnership.

Mike Haley starts at full-back with Andrew Conway and Shane Daly on either wing.

Rory Scannell moves to inside centre with Chris Farrell completing the midfield partnership.

Stephen Archer starts on his 224th appearance for the province and will overtake Marcus Horan to move into fifth place on Munster’s all-time list of record appearance holders.

Elsewhere in the forwards, veteran second-row Billy Holland returns to captain the side.

James Cronin, Niall Scannell and Archer pack down in the front-row with Fineen Wycherley and Holland in the engine room.

Jack O’Donoghue, Chris Cloete and Munster’s leading try-scorer Gavin Coombes make up the back-row.

Joey Carbery is again named among the replacements having made his return from long-term injury off the bench in Cardiff last week.

Meanwhile, the Connacht management team have again drafted the three representatives in the Ireland Six Nations squad straight into the starting team for this fixture.

Bundee Aki is retained at centre following his release from Ireland duty last weekend, while Dave Heffernan and Ultan Dillane both start at hooker and lock respectively.

In all there are seven changes from the side that secured a last-minute win at Benetton. Denis Buckley comes into an experienced front-row with Heffernan and Finlay Bealham, while Gavin Thornbury in in the the second-row alongside Dillane.

Conor Oliver starts at openside flanker to face his former club, joining captain Jarrad Butler and Paul Boyle to complete the pack.

There’s a new look half-back pairing of Caolin Blade and Jack Carty, while there are also new faces on the wings with Matt Healy and John Porch coming into the starting line-up. 12, 13 and 15 are unchanged from the Benetton win with Aki, Tom Daly and Tiernan O’Halloran all retained.

In all nine of the starting 15 are Connacht centurions as the side look to extend an all-time club record of five straight wins away from home.

The teams:

Munster: 15 Mike Haley, 14 Andrew Conway, 13 Chris Farrell, 12 Rory Scannell, 11 Shane Daly, 10 Ben Healy, 9 Craig Casey, 8 Gavin Coombes, 7 Chris Cloete, 6 Jack O’Donoghue, 5 Billy Holland (c), 4 Fineen Wycherley, 3 Stephen Archer, 2 Niall Scannell, 1 James Cronin
Replacements: 16 Kevin O’Byrne, 17 Jeremy Loughman, 18 John Ryan, 19 Jean Kleyn, 20 Jack O’Sullivan, 21 Nick McCarthy, 22 Joey Carbery, 23 Damien de Allende

Connacht: 15 Tiernan O’Halloran, 14 John Porch, 13 Tom Daly, 12 Bundee Aki, 11 Matt Healy, 10 Jack Carty, 9 Caolin Blade, 8 Paul Boyle, 7 Conor Oliver, 6 Jarrad Butler (c), 5 Gavin Thornbury, 4 Ultan Dillane, 3 Finlay Bealham, 2 Dave Heffernan, 1 Denis Buckley
Replacements: 16 Shane Delahunt, 17 Matthew Burke, 18 Jack Aungier, 19 Niall Murray, 20 Eoghan Masterson, 21 Kieran Marmion, 22 Sean O’Brien, 23 Alex Wootton

Venue: Thomond Park
Kick-off: 19:35 GMT
Referee: Chris Busby (Ireland)
Assistant referees: Andrew Brace (Ireland), Eoghan Cross (Ireland)
TMO: Joy Neville (Ireland)