Guinness Pro14, Round 6 team news
Round 5 last weekend was a successful one for the Irish sides. For the second week running all four provinces won. On Friday night Leinster put 50 points on Dean Ryan’s Dragons at the RDS. Ulster were somewhat less impressive in their 22-7 win over Zebre at Ravenhill. On Saturday Connacht got their second win from their third visit to Wales this season. They defeated a depleted Ospreys side 10-20. Munster picked up a bonus point at the Arms Park with a 23-33 win over Cardiff Blues.
Connacht v Leinster
The Sportsground, Friday, November 8th – 7:35pm
Andy Friend brings Jack Carty back into his starting line-up for tonight’s InterPro clash with reigning Guinness Pro14 champions and Conference A leaders, Leinster. Meanwhile, injury problems continue to affect selection in the second row. Ultan Dillan is the latest to pick up a knock after a back spasm injury forced him off early in the second half against the Ospreys last weekend. He joins Quinn Roux and Gavin Thornbury in the treatment room. Joe Maksymiw continues in the number 5 shirt and Sligo youngster Cillian Gallagher comes in for his first start after a cameo off the bench last weekend.
In better news for the westerners, this week saw club captain Jarrad Bulter sign a new two-year deal with the province. There were also new deals for Tiernan O’Halloran, Sean O’Brien and Tom Farrell. All four are in the squad this weekend. Tom McCartney and Finlay Bealham both return to the front row alongside Denis Buckley. Eoghan Masterson, Butler and Paul Boyle continue their back-row partnership.
Caolin Blade and Jack Carty are the half-backs pairing. In the centre, the in-form partnership of Peter Robb and Tom Farrell continue their partnership with Bundee Aki offering serious impact off the bench. Stephen Fitzgerald, Niyi Adeolokun and Darragh Leader are the back three combination this week.
Leo Cullen’s Leinster welcome six Internationals back into their side for their trip to Galway. Cian Healy and Andrew Porter come in either side of Ronan Kelleher. The hooker has impressed in the no.2 slot for Leinster during the opening 5 rounds. Devin Toner and Scott Fardy make up a formidable second-row pairing and this is certainly an area where Leo Cullen’s men expect to have the edge over the home side.
In the back-row Josh Murphy, Will Connors and Max Deegan have a settled look with Rhys Ruddock likely to feature off the bench at some stage. Luke McGrath returns to partner Ross Byrne who regains his no.10 shirt from his little brother Harry, who gave a man of the match display last weekend.
Robbie Henshaw returns to the familiar surrounds of the Sportsground where he spent four seasons prior to his September 2016 move east. Joe Tomane partners him and James Lowe and Adam Byrne offer width on the wings with Hugo Kennan at full-back.
It’s hard to see anything other than a Leinster win here. Connacht are on an impressive four-game winning streak. They looked sharp in attack in the first half last week against Ospreys and their defence coped admirably under pressure in the second half making 127 out of 128 tackles during the game. However, the mounting injury list, particularly in the second row should see Leinster dominate upfront and allow Leo Cullen’s side dictate the game.
Munster v Ulster
Thomond Park, Saturday, November 9th – 5:15pm
Its wholesale changes for Munster as Johann van Graan welcomes back some of Munster’s International contingent. Captain Peter O’Mahony returns at no.6, while his back row colleague for both club & country, CJ Stander comes back into the side at no.6. Chirs Cloete retains his spot at no.7. It’s an all-new front row as James Cronin, Niall Scannell and John Ryan pack down together. In the second row, Jean Kleyn returns alongside Billy Holland.
The half-back pairing of Alby Mathewson and JJ Hanrahan remains unchanged from last weeks win in Cardiff. However, Conor Murray will be expected to feature off the back ahead of European action next weekend. In the backs, Chris Farrell returns alongside Rory Scannell and Andrew Conway starts at no.14. Liam Coombes is on the opposite wing and Mike Haley continues at fullback.
The headline news from Dan McFarland’s team announcement is the return of Jordi Murphy and Jacob Stockdale to the starting line-up.
Jack McGrath, Rob Herring and Marty Moore line-out in a strong looking front row for the Ulstermen. Alan O’Connor partners Aussie Sam Carter in the second row. It’s all change in the back-row as Sean Reidy comes back in at no.6, Jordi Murphy return at 7 and Nick Timoney takes over from Marcel Cotezee at 8.
John Cooney and Angus Curtis both come in at 9 & 10 respectively, while Stuart McCloskey and Luke Marshall form the centre pairing. Stockdale and Rob Lyttle are named on the wings as Matt Faddes returns to the full-back slot after being tried at no.13 last weekend.
Dan McFarland will demand a much-improved performance from his Ulster side after last seasons nine-try 64-7 drubbing at Thomond. However, Munster’s pack look to have the edge over their northern counterparts and I would expect a home win.