Saturday 29 April 2017

Munster bid to avoid their worst losing sequence

Munster bid to avoid their worst losing sequence

Munster coach Anthony Foley
Munster coach Anthony Foley

John Fallon

Creating records is probably the last thing on Anthony Foley's mind right now as he bids to end a slump which is derailing Munster's season, but if they lose in Belfast tomorrow it will become their worst losing run in the professional era.

They have currently equalled the five losses suffered in 2003 when they went down to Leinster, but that string of defeats came when Munster had ten players on World Cup duty. None of those defeats came in the Heineken Cup and one of them was away to Glasgow in the Celtic Cup, which was run for a couple of seasons back then.

Two of the five defeats in 2003 came in home matches in the Celtic League, losing 19-12 to Llanelli Scarlets at Thomond Park and to 16-15 to Ulster at Thomond Park.

The other league defeats were 33-26 away to Ospreys and 29-6 against Dragons in Newport.

Foley admitted that the current losing run, which started in late November with a first win by Connacht in Thomond Park since 1986, has impacted on morale.

"There is no doubt confidence is affecting everyone; players, supporters, staff, coaches, management. I think when you go on a losing run like this you try and keep everything in context. But sometimes it is very hard to do that.

Balance

"The same way with when you go on a winning streak, it is very hard to keep your feet on the ground. We try and keep a level balance to it," he said. "We look at where our shortcomings are and if we can rectify some of them we'll be a very hard team to beat. In some respects we're beating ourselves."

And should they go down to in-form Ulster at Kingspan Stadium, it will be the first time Munster have lost to all three Irish provinces in the same season.

Foley has made seven changes for the trip to Belfast, with Tommy O'Donnell making his first start after his swift recovery from the hip injury which ruined his World Cup dream.

He is one of four changes up front, with Dave Kilcoyne at loosehead in place of injured James Cronin, while former Ulster prop BJ Botha returns to take his place on the opposite side of the front-row at tighthead having missed the Leinster loss through 'flu.

In the second-row, experienced Wallaby lock Mark Chisholm is brought back in for the injured Donnacha Ryan.

As expected, Ian Keatley is restored at out-half while on the wings Lucas Amorosino and Ronan O'Mahony come in for the rested Simon Zebo and Keith Earls, who was stretchered off with a neck injury last weekend.

Munster (v Ulster) - A Conway; R O'Mahony, F Saili, R Scannell, L Amorosino; I Keatley, T O'Leary; D Kilcoyne, M Sherry, BJ Botha; D Foley, M Chisholm; J O'Donoghue, T O'Donnell, CJ Stander (capt). Replacements: N Scannell, J Ryan, M Sagario, B Holland, R Copeland, D Williams, T Bleyendaal, D Hurley.

Irish Independent

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