Munster will want a third win of the season to go into the break on a high
By James Roulston Mooney
Munster will take on Ulster in their final BKT United Rugby Championship match on Saturday night at Thomond Park before club play is paused for the November international window.
The Red Army will be looking for a third win this season and a first Interpro victory to finish the opening period of their campaign on a high before the three-week break.
They face an Ulster side who had their fixture against the Cell-C Sharks postponed last week due to a mass bout of illness within the team.
However, Ulster has only lost one of their games so far and sits second in the league – their defeat to Leinster in round four was the only match where they failed to score upwards of 35 points.
Munster, on the other hand, only has one bonus-point-winning match to their name so far this season.
Their defence has been the stronger aspect of their performances so far this campaign, which bodes well against an Ulster side who have been leaky off-the-ball.
However, their discipline pales in comparison to Dan McFarland’s squad, who sit top of the league in that regard after six rounds.
Graham Rowntree’s side will be without locks Jean Kleyn and Thomas Ahern, who are sidelined with rib and shoulder injuries respectively.
There are nine changes in total to the Munster side that lost to Leinster last week, with Jack O’Donoghue taking the captain’s armband.
O’Donoghue is joined by John Hodnett and Alex Kenndellen in the back row, with Edwin Edogbu and Eoin O’Connor in front of them in the second row.
O’Connor’s second Munster start and first appearance of the season comes behind a front row of Dave Kilcoyne, Diarmuid Barron and John Ryan.
Ryan is in his second stint at the club and joined on a short-term deal this week after the liquidation of his former club Wasps, who he had joined in the summer.
Paddy Paterson and Jack Crowley are trusted to run the attack from the half-back positions with Rory Scannell and Malakai Fekitoa outside of them.
The side is completed with a back three of Patrick Campbell, Shane Daly and Mike Haley and complemented by a bench that includes Niall Scannell and Simon Zebo, among others.
Ulster’s XV is led by veteran lock Alan O’Connor with Duane Vermuelen, Nathan Doak and James Hume being some of the standouts in a balanced side.
Rory Sutherland, John Cooney and Craig Gilroy are part of a solid bench that includes both experienced figures and young guns.
The match will be shown live on RTE 2 with kick-off set for 5:15pm.
Munster: Mike Haley; Shane Daly, Malakai Fekitoa, Rory Scannell, Patrick Campbell; Jack Crowley, Paddy Patterson; Dave Kilcoyne, Diarmuid Barron, John Ryan; Edwin Edogbo, Eoin O’Connor; Jack O’Donoghue (C), John Hodnett, Alex Kendellen.
Replacements: Niall Scannell, Josh Wycherley, Roman Salanoa, Evan O’Connell, Cian Hurley, Neil Cronin, Ben Healy, Simon Zebo.
Ulster: Stewart Moore; Ben Moxham, James Hume, Luke Marshall, Ethan McIlroy; Billy Burns, Nathan Doak; Andy Warwick, Tom Stewart, Marty Moore; Alan O’Connor (C), Sam Carter; David McCann, Sean Reffell, Duane Vermeulen.
Replacements: John Andrew, Rory Sutherland, Gareth Milasinovich, Cormac Izuchukwu, Jordi Murphy, John Cooney, Angus Curtis, Craig Gilroy.