Munster name strong side as Connacht rely on youngsters
Rob Henshaw starts at fullback but both Simon Zebo and Conor Murray miss out
The former Ireland Under-20 captain Niall Scannell will make his fourth appearance of the season for Connacht. Photogaph: Ashley Western/Inpho
The brouhaha surrounding the suggestion that the IRFU vetoed Munster’s efforts to sign Australian captain and hooker Stephen Moore is a topical aside to this evening’s Guinness Pro12 clash in Limerick.
A medium-term injury to Duncan Casey and a short-term knee problem sustained by Mike Sherry means former Ireland Under-20 captain Niall Scannell – his younger brother Rory is also in the match day squad – will make his fourth appearance of the season.
The 23-year-old has accumulated just 33 minutes in his previous three matches when coming on as a replacement but there is no doubting his pedigree. This is his first start this season having played in five Pro12 matches last season. His fellow development contract hooker Kevin O’Byrne is set to play in his first league match of the current campaign if he comes off the bench.
Lam refuses to moan about a spiralling injury list. “We have a long list of casualties but as I’ve said before, it’s up to the next guy to come in and do the job and I’m really pleased with the way players, especially the younger guys, have stepped up so far this season,” he said.
“The amount of youth coming through in this side is exciting with 13 of our match-day squad graduates or current members of the Connacht Academy. We are under no illusion as to the task at hand.
“Axel [Anthony Foley] has done a great job moulding and building a tough and resilient Munster side over the last two years. Our team work and work ethic on and off the ball will need to be at its best to give us a chance to get the four points on offer.”
Robbie Henshaw starts at fullback with Craig Ronaldson coming into the centre to partner the ever-present Bundee Aki. Matt Healy’s return on the left wing promises a fascinating battle of the speedsters when he goes up against the in-form Gerhard van der Heever. AJ MacGinty is another to earn a first Pro12 start.
Openside flanker James Connolly gets a chance to lay claim to the jersey and his tussle with Jack O’Donoghue at the breakdown will be interesting. This is a first Pro12 game for Connolly having made four appearances in Europe.
Strong sideLucas Gonzalez AmorosinoJames Cronin
Munster last lost to Connacht at Thomond Park in 1986 and have won their last 13 home matches in the Pro12. Connacht though are on a record-equalling run of their own, matching the five consecutive league victories they managed in 2002. Both teams have lost just one match in seven with the visitors sitting proudly atop the table.
The weather forecast suggests there will be heavy showers during the match and that should place a greater emphasis on the setpiece, breakdown and kicking games of both teams. Munster have a bit more experience in key positions which may be the difference.