Ulster Rugby will hope to continue their unbeaten run this season in a mouth-watering first Inter-pro contest against Munster Rugby in Limerick on Saturday evening.
Munster will be looking to keep up their fantastic home record in front of a raucous home crowd at 7.35pm.
What’s at stake? Although Ulster’s three-match winning run ended against the Cheetahs last Friday, they are still undefeated after Henry Speight’s last-ditch try snatched a draw in a 78-point thriller.
On the first Inter-pro weekend of the season, the Ulstermen will hope to return to winning ways and challenge Leinster Rugby for first place in Conference B.
Munster, who sit fourth in Conference A, have lost both away matches this season but also won convincingly and taken a maximum ten points from their home games.
Johann van Graan’s men will look to make home advantage pay at fortress Thomond Park and make up ground on current leaders Glasgow Warriors.
Team news (Munster Rugby): Scrum-half Alby Mathewson has obtained a work permit and makes his debut after penning a four-month contract. The former All Black last played for Toulon and lines up alongside Ireland playmaker Joey Carbery at half-back. Keith Earls and Niall Scannell make their first starts of the season at wing and hooker respectively – fellow internationals Dave Kilcoyne, Billy Holland and Tommy O’Donnell also return among eight changes.
Team news (Ulster Rugby): Andrew Warwick will reach a century of caps for Ulster tonight – the 27-year-old loosehead made his debut five years ago. Talismanic kicker John Cooney has recovered from a scalp laceration to continue his half-back partnership with Billy Burns. Alan O’Connor captains from lock, alongside Iain Henderson, who returns to the second-row in one of nine changes. With Rory Best, Jacob Stockdale and Will Addison still out, Adam McBurney, Angus Kernohan and Peter Nelson deputise – Nelson making his 50th appearance.
Ulster coach Dan McFarland was under no illusions when asked about the quality of the opposition: “This is the biggest test yet, obviously.
“We expect to see a much tougher Munster…it’s a big challenge for us, but one we’ll relish.”
Ulster flanker Jean Deysel, who had a short loan spell with the Red Army last year, knows all about the renowned Thomond Park atmosphere: “It’ll keep you awake some nights,” he said. “[It’s] a phenomenal challenge.”
Munster forwards coach Jerry Flannery was unafraid to criticise their performances thus far, emphasising: “For us the main thing now is a result…because two from four is not good enough.
“It’s an Irish derby and everyone knows each other pretty well…for the players [aiming for] the national side it’s almost like an Irish trial from that point of view.”
Key battle: Alby Mathewson vs John Cooney
Alby Mathewson is a classy operator – the All Blacks don’t cap you unless you can play a bit. After leaving moneybags Toulon last season, the wily half-back has an immediate chance to impress in Conor Murray’s absence. Can he control the Munster tempo? On the opposite side, Ulster fans will be breathing sighs of relief after Cooney’s return from injury. His back-up Dave Shanahan scored twice last week, but Cooney’s nerveless kicking game and support lines could prove crucial.
Key fact: Expect a tight game – none of the last five encounters between the two have ended in a winning margin of more than seven.
Did you know? Munster’s last six matches in the Guinness PRO14 have all gone the way of the home side.
Munster: Mike Haley, Andrew Conway, Dan Goggin, Rory Scannell, Keith Earls; Joey Carbery, Alby Mathewson; Dave Kilcoyne, Niall Scannell, Stephen Archer, Tadhg Beirne, Billy Holland, Peter O’Mahony (C), Tommy O’Donnell, CJ Stander
Replacements: Kevin O’Byrne, James Cronin, Ciaran Parker, Jean Kleyn, Arno Botha, Duncan Williams, Ian Keatley, Sammy Arnold
Ulster: Peter Nelson, Craig Gilroy, Darren Cave, Angus Curtis, Angus Kernohan; Billy Burns, John Cooney; Andrew Warwick, Adam McBurney, Ross Kane, Alan O’Connor, Iain Henderson, Matthew Rea, Nick Timoney, Jean Deysel
Replacements: John Andrew, Eric O’Sullivan, Tom O’Toole, Kieran Treadwell, Clive Ross, Dave Shanahan, Michael Lowry, James Hume
TV: At Thomond Park, 7.35pm. Live on eir sport and Premier Sports
Referee: Dan Jones (WRU)
Assistant referees: Ian Davies (WRU) and Nigel Correll (IRFU)
Citing commissioner: Eddie Walsh (IRFU)
TMO: Brian MacNeice (IRFU)
Dan Goggin’s first half double helped a red-hot Munster put nine tries past Ulster in a 64-7 victory at Thomond Park.
Goggin’s brace, along with Tommy O’Donnell’s two tries, gave Munster race into a 29-0 lead at the break before scores from Peter O’Mahony, a stunning effort form Joey Carbery, Sam Arnold, Keith Earls and Alex Wootton ensured the Munstermen got back to winning ways in some style.
Munster fell to a 37-13 defeat at the hands of Cardiff Blues last weekend but they made up for that within the opening five minutes as Andrew Conway found Wootton who released Goggin to cross.
Eight minutes later the hosts had their second as O’Donnell spotted a gap in the Ulster backline and showed great pace to power over.
Munster were in free-flowing mood and had their third try on a half-hour mark.
A driving maul allowed 31-year-old O’Donnell to charge to the line and crash over to make it 22-0.
Goggin was enjoying a fine game and the 23-year-old was over yet again three minutes before the break. Patient build up from the home side allowed Goggin to pick a gap and score his second of the evening.
Ulster coach Dan McFarland would have demanded a response and he got one six minutes into the second period as Darren Cave finished off a flowing move with Billy Burns converting.
But that only fired Munster into action as captain O’Mahony he touched down in the corner to extend the advantage.
Munster saved their best rugby for the sixth try as they carved Ulster apart. Starting in their own 22, a sensational move unleashed Goggin down the wing who passed back to Carbery who showed fine handling skills before weaving through the visitor’s defence to cross.
The hosts were playing some of their best stuff of the season and picked up a seventh try as Wootton’s deft kick through was picked up by Arnold who slid over the try line.
Keith Earls was next to get in on the act with 10 minutes remaining with his first try of the season on his first start of the season.
More fine build up from Duncan Williams and Billy Holland allowed Earls to put the finishing touches on the move.
There was enough time for Wootton to cap off his fine display with a try and give Munster a welcome return to winning ways.
28 Sep 2018
28 Sep 2018