Visit to formidable league leaders Glasgow a tough assignment for Munster
Coach Rob Penney makes eight changes from the Gloucester win for the showdown with Warriors
JJ Hanrahan and Keith Earls training with Munster at Cork Institute of Technology. Photo: Morgan Treacy/Inpho
A return trip to Scotland is liable to induce a fairly spooky feeling within Munster ranks. Not alone is there the relatively recent memory of their Heineken Cup defeat in Edinburgh a fortnight ago, but on their last trek to Glasgow to face the Warriors they suffered a seven tries to three, 51-24, thrashing.
The unbeaten league leaders have won 15 of their last 18 Pro12 matches and have won their last 10 games at Scotstoun in all competitions.
With his hand forced to some degree with the injuries to Donnacha Ryan and Denis Hurley, and the IRFU Player Welfare Programme, Rob Penney makes eight changes in personnel and a couple of positional switches from the team that beat Gloucester last Saturday.
Andrew Conway, Ivan Dineen and Ronan O’Mahony return to the backline after impressing for the Munster A side in the last two weeks, with Simon Zebo rested and James Downey and Casey Laulala on the bench, as Keith Earls moved to midfield and Johne Murphy to fullback.
JJ Hanrahan comes into the side alongside Conor Murray at halfback with James Cronin, Mike Sherry and Stephen Archer forming a new frontrow, while CJ Stander is promoted to the backrow alongside Sean Dougall and Peter O’Mahony in the backrow.
“Due to the short turn-around and the travel and intensity of the last three weeks, and the importance of the next two weeks, there is a bit of freshening up in the group and this is why we’ve made a few changes,” said Penney.
That said, Glasgow themselves have only had a five-day turnaround since last Sunday’s Heineken Cup win at home to Exeter. Accordingly, Gregor Townsend makes five changes, with Sean Lamont returning to the midfield after injury, while Duncan Weir replaces Ruaridh Jackson at stand-off and Chris Cusiter comes in for Niko Matawalu at scrumhalf to also captain the side. Moray Low replaces the injured Ed Kalman and lock Jonny Gray replaces Al Kellock.
While Penney can call upon a strong bench as back-up, logically Glasgow are entitled to be favourites for this one.