Tuesday 26 September 2017

Pat Lam's province dominates our Connacht-Munster combined XV

CJ Stander and Robbie Henshaw feature tonight
CJ Stander and Robbie Henshaw feature tonight
Cormac Byrne

Cormac Byrne

There will be a helluva lot on the line when Anthony Foley's Munster travels to the Sportsground to face high-flying Connacht.

A win would guarantee Connacht a top six berth and Champions Cup rugby next season and move them closer to the playoffs, while Munster are in desperate need of points if they are to do likewise.

We've assessed both teams and we've come up with a composite side from the players available and Connacht eclipse their more vaunted opponents with nine of their ranks in the team.

CONNACHT/MUNSTER COMBINED XV:

15. Simon Zebo (Munster)

The province's all-time leading tryscorer has continued his good form from the Six Nations and will be a vital players in a critical few weeks for his team.

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Munster's Simon Zebo has become the side's all-time top try-scorer. Photo: Matt Browne / Sportsfile

14. Matt Healy (Connacht)

Healy was scintillating last week in the gallant defeat to Grenoble. The leading tryscorer in the Pro12 has been justifiably rewarded for his good form with a call up to an Ireland training camp this weekend. Must go to South Africa.

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Healy: Impressive run of form. Photo: Paul Mohan / Sportsfile

13. Robbie Henshaw (Connacht)

The news of his departue to Leinster at the end of the season hasn't dampened his enthusiasm. The Munster midfield must beware.

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Robbie Henshaw, Connacht, goes over to score his side's second try despite the attention of Chris Farrell, Grenoble Photo: Sportsfile

12. Bundee Aki (Connacht)

One of the best overseas signing in recent years. Bundee is a line-break machine and his passion for Connacht has seen him become a crowd favourite in Galway.

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Bundee Aki, Connacht, looks dejected following his side's defeat Photo: Sportsfile

11. Keith Earls (Munster)

An international class winger and a lethal finisher. Will have to be very aggressive in his defensive duties this weekend as Connacht throw it wide.

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Munster's Keith Earls. Photo: Sportsfile

10. Jack Carty (Connacht)

Carty has recovered from rupturing his spleen in a freak accident in Dubai and can give Connacht necessary direction. Shane O'Leary has been impressive, but maybe naive, in Carty absence. Johnny Holland's inexperience and Ian Keatley's form are why the Munster pair are overlooked.

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Carty is doubtful for their April 9 clash away to Grenoble in the final eight of that competition, and is likely to miss a large chunk of Connacht's run-in in the Pro12 (Sportsfile)

9. Conor Murray (Munster)

Quite simply one of the best scrum-halves on the planet. Marmion is a good player but he has a long way to go to meet Murray's level of performance.

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Munster's Conor Murray. Photo: Diarmuid Greene/Sportsfile

8. CJ Stander (Munster)

The inspirational South African has had an amazing 2016. Leading Munster to three straight wins over the final three league games may prove to be his biggest achievement.

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Munster's CJ Stander speaking during a press conference at Castletroy Park Hotel, Limerick. Picture: Diarmuid Greene / SPORTSFILE

7. Tommy O'Donnell (Munster)

Endless endurance and a fearless tackler. O'Donnell will cover some ground for his team mates.

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Tommy O’Donnell

6. John Muldoon (Connacht)

The heart and soul of this Connacht side. He epitomises everything that's good about the province and the way they are trying to play.

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John Muldoon of Connacht. Photo: Seb Daly/Sportsfile

5. Donnacha Ryan (Munster)

The leader of Munster's front five. Critical that he stays fighting fit over the next few games.

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Munster’s Donnacha Ryan wins possession in a lineout ahead of Alessandro Zanni of Treviso last weekend Photo: Sportsfile

4. Ultan Dillane

One of the most exciting prospects in Irish rugby, has benefited from playing alongside the experience and rugby intelligence of Aly Muldowney.

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Ultan Dillane, Connacht. Photo: Stephen McCarthy / Sportsfile

3. Finlay Bealhem

Showed real aggression when putting Iain Henderson on his backside against Ulster and a prop that can really move.

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Finlay Bealham of Connacht. Photo: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

2. Tom McCartney

The New Zealander is a terrific lineout operator and rarely takes a backward step in the loose.

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Tom McCartney (Photo: Sportsfile)

1. Denis Buckley

Mystifying that he has once again been overlooked by Joe Schmidt and the Irish management. Superb offloader and tenacious at the breakdown.

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Denis Buckley (Photo: Seb Daly/ Sportsfile)

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