Munster have too much in reserve and will give Cardiff the blues

Barely noticed, Munster have climbed back to the top of the Pro 12 with just one defeat in seven outings

Munster’s JJ Hanrahan has a big chance to stake his claim. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

Munster’s JJ Hanrahan has a big chance to stake his claim. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

Sat, Nov 23, 2013, 01:00

With several players overlooked by Ireland, Munster are creeping back into that old familiar territory.

Barely noticed, they have climbed atop of the Pro 12 league with just one defeat in seven outings.

They arrive at the Arms Park this evening with a decent collection of reserves as Stephen Archer was dropped from the Irish bench while Felix Jones, Donncha O’Callaghan and James Coughlan were also released, although too late to make the starting XV tonight .

With CJ Stander playing regularly now and Robin Copeland having a storming season for Cardiff, the veteran Dolphin number eight should be eager to get on the field and prove his form.

“Munster have changed a lot over the last year or so, but they are top of the league at this stage so you have to give them huge respect for that,” said Cardiff director of rugby Phil Davies.

“A lot has work has gone on in recent seasons with the era that contained the likes of Ronan O’Gara, Tomás O’Leary, David Wallace and Alan Quinlan coming to an end.”

Perhaps the most interesting selection of all is that of James Cronin at loosehead prop, as he appears to have nudged Dave Kilcoyne out of the way.

That battle is sure to run and run, unless there is some tighthead scrummaging in one of them as the loosehead queue at national level is stacking up.

With Ian Keatley injured, JJ Hanrahan gets a big chance to stake a claim at outhalf where he partners Cathal Sheridan.

International duty deprives Cardiff of Lions stars Sam Warburton, Alex Cuthbert and Leigh Halfpenny.

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Rabo Pro 12

Team P W D L F A BP Pts
Leinster 20 15 1 4 517 319 12 74
Ulster 20 14 0 6 431 270 9 65
Glasgow 19 15 0 4 355 259 4 64
Munster 19 14 0 5 434 285 7 63
Ospreys 19 11 1 7 479 328 10 56
Scarlets 19 9 1 9 361 383 7 45
Edinburgh 18 7 0 11 325 393 7 35
Connacht 19 6 0 13 313 410 10 34
Cardiff 19 6 1 12 371 483 7 33
Dragons 19 6 1 12 339 419 5 31
Treviso 20 5 1 14 341 533 7 29
Zebre 19 3 2 14 291 465 5 21

Pool One

Team P W D L F A BP Pts
Leinster 6 5 0 1 152 66 2 22
Northampton 6 4 0 2 107 104 1 17
Castres 6 2 0 4 78 104 1 9
Ospreys 6 1 0 5 75 138 1 5

Pool Two

Team P W D L F A BP Pts
Toulon 6 5 0 1 170 104 4 24
Cardiff 6 3 0 3 119 148 2 14
Exeter 6 2 0 4 118 123 4 12
Glasgow 6 2 0 4 98 130 3 11

Pool Three

Team P W D L F A BP Pts
Toulouse 6 5 0 1 143 63 3 23
Saracens 6 4 0 2 217 74 4 20
Connacht 6 3 0 3 101 147 1 13
Zebre 6 0 0 6 33 210 0 0

Pool Four

Team P W D L F A BP Pts
Clermont 6 5 0 1 139 69 4 24
Harlequins 6 3 0 3 126 103 4 16
Scarlets 6 2 1 3 122 150 1 11
Racing Metro 6 1 1 4 66 131 1 7

Pool Five

Team P W D L F A BP Pts
Ulster 6 6 0 0 179 62 2 26
Leicester 6 4 0 2 159 112 5 21
Montpellier 6 2 0 4 121 124 3 11
Treviso 6 0 0 6 41 202 0 0

Pool Six

Team P W D L F A BP Pts
Munster 6 5 0 1 161 77 3 23
Gloucester 6 3 0 3 113 114 2 14
Edinburgh 6 3 0 3 104 141 0 12
Perpignan 6 1 0 5 112 158 3 7