Munster to restore international front-liners for Connacht clash
Stephen Larkham confirms Keith Earls and CJ Stander among those to return
Munster attack coach Stephen Larkham says they’ve ear-marked the upcoming game against Connacht as very important. File hotograph: Getty Images
Munster will restore all their fit international front-liners for Saturday’s crunch Conference B summit meeting with Connacht at the Sportsground having rested all bar Shane Daly from the starting XV which won in Clermont for last weekend’s first defeat of the season in Ulster.
Attack coach Stephen Larkham has confirmed that the likes of Keith Earls, Chris Farrell, Damien de Allende, Tadhg Beirne, Peter O’Mahony and CJ Stander are all in line to face Connacht. Andrew Conway, who was a late withdrawal against Clermont, along with David Kilcoyne and Ben Healy, both of whom returned from injury against Ulster, are also back in the frame.
Apart from the injured quartet of Matt Gallagher (shoulder) RG Snyman (knee) Neil Cronin (knee) and Joey Carbery (ankle), Larkham said: “Yeah, except for those that are injured, everyone is available for the game this weekend.
“It was a bit of a shame that we didn’t get to play against Leinster, ” added Larkham of the postponed game on St Stephen’s Day. “That would have been a fine little top off for some of the guys. But we gave the guys a good rest, those that needed it. Everyone should be available for selection this weekend.”
This season’s play-offs having been restricted to just a final between the respective Conference winners, Munster’s late bonus point in the Kingspan Stadium courtesy of Darren Sweetnam’s try, gives them an eight-point buffer over Connacht going into Saturday’s meeting.
“It’s a big game for us. Connacht played a good game on the weekend and they’re second in the table, so it’s massive. In our planning, we had ear-marked this game as very important for us,” admitted Larkham.
While carrying on from where they left off against Clermont three weeks ago is “a bit of a challenge” according to Larkham, he reasoned: “We had planned for our guys to have a bit of a rest last week. We have an important run of games coming up but we don’t want to focus too far in front of the game this weekend.
“We felt the timing was right to rest the players at the weekend. They were in pretty good form prior to that, their fitness levels are very good. We expect the players to be back into the form that they had prior to the break.”
That form contained 10 wins out of 10, culminating in that stunning comeback from 28-9 down against Clermont in the Stade Marcel Michelin, and Larkham believes Munster can take momentum from that game into this Saturday’s match.
“It was a remarkable performance. We had some good composure from our leaders on the field and then some good attacking passages there that got us back into the and, and then some good set-piece right at the end against a team who is renowned for having a good set-piece.
“We were pleased coming out of that game. It would have been nice to keep that momentum going against Leinster and then we made a few changes which probably resulted in our accuracy not being as good as it should have been on the weekend. But there is still momentum in this team.
“We definitely took a lot of confidence out of the game. It wasn’t a game that we got lucky in with a refereeing decision that went our way or anything like that.”