Simon Zebo and Tommy O’Donnell named on Munster team

Kieran Marmion returns for Connacht in Pro12 encounter

Munster have named a strong side for the visit of Connacht on Saturday evening with Simon Zebo and Tommy O'Donnell both named in their starting fifteen.

Head Coach Anthony Foley makes five changes in total to the starting line-up that lost to Ospreys in the last round of the competition as he welcomes back a number of returning internationals to the side.

Two changes in the front row see John Ryan and Stephen Archer come in to start on either side of Eusebio Guinazu.

The return of Tommy O’Donnell at openside is the only change to the back row with Dave O’Callaghan and CJ Stander continuing at six and eight respectively.

READ MORE

Duncan Williams and Ian Keatley again team up in the half-backs, while in the midfield Andrew Smith makes his first start since returning from injury.

His return sees Keith Earls move out to the right wing with Simon Zebo returning to line out on the opposite flank. Felix Jones makes up an impressive back three.

Connacht head coach Pat Lam welcomes scrum half Kieran Marmion back from injury as he joins Jack Carty in a new half back pairing.

Darragh Leader comes onto the right wing while fellow local lad Tiernan O’Halloran moves to fullback. Craig Ronaldson starts at outside centre.

There are four personnel changes in total from the team that played Cardiff Blues last time out with three of those changes in the backs.

Academy forward Eoghan Masterson is named at openside flanker for his fifth game this season while Quinn Roux and Eoin McKeon return to take their place amongst the replacement forwards.

Lam says the team are fully aware that Munster at Thomond Park is a big challenge.

“We have the self-belief that if we focus on our game plan and work as a team, we can go down there and perform,” he says.

“It’s no secret that we’ve been hit with injuries, especially in certain positions but what it has highlighted is the importance of team work within the squad.

“Younger guys like Eoghan (Masterson) can step up with ease to pick up the role and do their part for the team with confidence.

“Interpro games like this are always big occasions but, for us, there are four points up for grabs and rather than get too caught up in the emotion of a derby game, we want to channel everything into a performance. We’re very much looking forward to it.”

Munster: Felix Jones; Keith Earls, Andrew Smith, Denis Hurley - capt., Simon Zebo; Ian Keatley, Duncan Williams; John Ryan, Eusebio Guinazu, Stephen Archer; Donncha O'Callaghan, Billy Holland; Dave O'Callaghan, Tommy O'Donnell, CJ Stander.

Replacements: Duncan Casey, Dave Kilcoyne, BJ Botha, Paddy Butler, Jack O’Donoghue, Neil Cronin, JJ Hanrahan, Ronan O’Mahony.

Connacht: Tiernan O'Halloran; Darragh Leader, Danie Poolman, Craig Ronaldson, Matt Healy; Jack Carty, Kieran Marmion; Denis Buckley, Tom McCartney, Rodney Ah You; Mick Kearney, Aly Muldowney; John Muldoon (captain), Eoghan Masterson, George Naoupu.

Replacements: Shane Delahunt, Ronan Loughney, Finlay Bealham, Quinn Roux, Eoin McKeon, John Cooney, Shane O’Leary, Conor Finn.

Eamon Donoghue

Eamon Donoghue

Eamon Donoghue is a sports journalist with The Irish Times