Munster make 14 changes for Connacht clash

Outhalf JJ Hanrahan the only player to remain from side that started against Scarlets

Niall Scannell will make his starting debut for Munster against Connacht at Thomond Park on Friday night. Photograph: Cathal Noonan/Inpho

Niall Scannell will make his starting debut for Munster against Connacht at Thomond Park on Friday night. Photograph: Cathal Noonan/Inpho

Thu, Dec 26, 2013, 13:01

Outhalf JJ Hanrahan is the only Munster player retained in the starting XV from last weekend’s victory over Scarlets for Friday night’s interprovincial joust with Connacht at Thomond Park (7.15pm).

The Pro12 league leaders hand a fist start to hooker Niall Scannell, who made his debut as a replacement for Duncan Casey last weekend.

Felix Jones in named at fullback, with Keith Earls and Ronan O’Mahony on the wings and Johne Murphy and James Downey forming the midfield partnership, while Hanrahan is joined by Duncan Williams at halfback.

Props James Cronin and John Ryan make up the new frontrow alongside Scannell, while Donncha O’Callaghan and Dave Foley are named in the secondrow.

Paddy Butler comes in at blindside flanker, with Sean Dougall at openside and James Coughlan at number eight.

Connacht coach Pat Lam makes three changes and a number of positional switches to the side that won their second league game of the campaign at home to the Dragons last weekend.

Fionn Carr comes in on the right wing, with Gavin Duffy moving to fullback and Robbie Henshaw switching to outside centre. Eoin Griffin moves to inside centre for the injured Dave McSharry.

The other change in the backline sees Frank Murphy earn his 100th Connacht cap when he starts at scrumhalf, with Kieran Marmion moving to the bench.

In the pack, the front five remains unchanged from last week but the backrow sees Andrew Browne promoted from the bench to start at blindside flanker while John Muldoon moves to the openside in place of the injured Jake Heenan.

Eoin McKeon makes up an all-Galway backrow wearing at number eight.

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.

Commenting on the team selection, Lam said: “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.

“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.

“Jake (Heenan) joins Willie Faloon on the injured list which is another huge loss to a crucial position for us. But John (Muldoon) has shown in the past that he has the skillset and experience to switch sides in the backrow.

“We’re really looking forward to the game. These interprovincial games are huge occasions and a source of great pride for the players. It’s a massive challenge as Munster are flying high at the top of the Pro12 table, they’re topping their own Heineken Cup pool and we haven’t beaten them down there since 1967.

“We have shown this season that if we go through the processes and bring heart to our game plan, we can get the outcome we all want. That’s what we have to do tomorrow.”

MUNSTER: F Jones; K Earls, J Murphy, J Downey, R O’Mahony; JJ Hanrahan, D Williams; J Cronin, N Scannell, J Ryan; Donncha O’Callaghan, D Foley; P Butler, S Dougall, J Coughlan. Replacements: D Varley, A Cotter, S Archer, B Holland, CJ Stander, G Hurley, J Holland, D Hurley.

CONNACHT: G Duffy; F Carr, R Henshaw, E Griffin, M Healy; D Parks, F Murphy; B Wilkinson, J Harris-Wright, N White; M Kearney, C Clarke (capt); A Browne, J Muldoon, E McKeon. Replacements: D Heffernan, D Buckley , R Ah You, A Muldowney, G Naoupu, K Marmion, J Carty, D Leader

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