Carbery’s return the major subplot as Munster visit Cardiff
Irish fingers will be crossed for a successful return from injury for the unlucky outhalf
Joey Carbery during Munster squad training at UL, Limerick. Due to injury has played just four games for Munster in the last two years, and 17 in total. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho
Cardiff Blues v Munster, Cardiff Arms Park, 8pm. On TV: Live on eir sport 1, S4C and Premier Sports 2.
Rarely have the replacements provided the main narrative for a game to quite this extent. Then again, rarely has a province and a country pined for the return of such an unfortunate great white hope.
It’s been a long road, with many a false down, but countless fingers will be crossed that Joey Carbery’s return to action via the subs’ bench in Cardiff tonight will mark the beginning of an overdue, prolonged, injury-free and productive run for the 25-year-old.
Recurring problems with the ankle injury he initially sustained in a World Cup warm-up match against Italy (when he was the brightest spark on the pitch) has restricted him to just two games since that tournament, the last of them on January 3rd 2020. All told, Carbery has played just four games for Munster in the last two years, and 17 in total.
Furthermore, it will be a landmark night for another replacement, Billy Holland, who is in line to overtake Ronan O’Gara in becoming the province’s second most capped player with 241 appearances, and behind Donnacha O’Callaghan on 268.
The Munster think tank have made six changes to the starting XV from last week’s typically gritty 22-10 win in horrid conditions at Murrayfield. Calvin Nash, Rory Scannell, Nick McCarthy, Kevin O’Byrne, Fineen Wycherley and Jack O’Sullivan all come in, meaning Niall Scannell and Gavin Coombes also supplement a strong-looking bench also featuring Paddy Patterson, the on-loan scrum-half from Leinster, who could also make his Munster debut.
The Blues, just four points behind the Scarlets in third place and possible qualification for next season’s Heineken Champions Cup, will assuredly be lifted by returning to the Arms Park for the first time in 12 months.
But Munster have won the sides’ last three meetings with bonus points, and look to have enough about them to maintain their much-improved away form and 12-point lead atop Conference B.
CARDIFF BLUES: Matthew Morgan, Owen Lane, Mason Grady, Rey Lee-Lo, Aled Summerhill, Ben Thomas, Jamie Hill; Corey Domachowski, Kirby Myhill, Dimitri Arhip, Seb Davies, Rory Thornton, Shane Lewis-Hughes, Elliis Jenkins, Josh Turnbull (capt).
Replacements: Liam Belcher, Theo Bevacqua, Kieron Assiratti, James Ratti, Olly Robinson, Lewis Jones, Max Llewellyn, Dan Fish.
MUNSTER: Mike Haley; Calvin Nash, Rory Scannell, Damian de Allende, Shane Daly; JJ Hanrahan, Nick McCarthy; James Cronin, Kevin O’Byrne, John Ryan; Jean Kleyn, Fineen Wycherley; Jack O’Donoghue (capt), Chris Cloete, Jack O’Sullivan.
Replacements: Niall Scannell, Liam O’Connor, Roman Salanoa, Billy Holland, Gavin Coombes, Paddy Patterson, Joey Carbery, Darren Sweetnam.
Referee: Adam Jones (WRU).
Forecast: Munster to win.