Tuesday 27 September 2016

Red alert for visit of high-flyers

John Fallon

Published 27/11/2015 | 02:30

Keith Earls, left, in action alongside team-mates Robin Copeland, Conor Oliver and Dave Foley during squad training this week ahead of tomorrow’s clash with Connacht.
Keith Earls, left, in action alongside team-mates Robin Copeland, Conor Oliver and Dave Foley during squad training this week ahead of tomorrow’s clash with Connacht.

Anthony Foley's men will be on their guard when Connacht come to Thomond Park tomorrow looking for only their second ever win in Limerick and first in the professional era.

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The top-of-the-table clash presents Pat Lam's men with an opportunity to claim a major scalp, but the Reds are fully aware of the challenge when the Guinness Pro12 leaders will present.

Former Connacht out-half Ian Keatley, who kicked the four penalties which gave them their first win over Munster in the professional era in 2008, said he is not surprised by the progress they have made.

"Nothing has really changed since I was there. That was the goal. That was the legacy they wanted when I was there. It has taken them a few years to get there, but that is great for Irish rugby, it's great for competitiveness.

"They have beaten us a couple of times up in Galway too. It is great that they are competitive, but I am with Munster now and my focus is to win for Munster," said the 28-year-old.

Munster's form has been as impressive this season with six wins from seven league games and their record against Connacht in the league is superb.

There have been 26 league meetings between the sides and Munster have won 23 of them and drawn once. They lost in the Sportsground in 2008 and again last January but won all other ten games in Galway or Athlone.

There have been 14 games between them in Limerick or Cork, including a quarter-final clash in the 2002-'03 season, and aside from a 27-27 draw in the 2004-'05 campaign, all have been won by Munster.

Two of Munster's away wins were by 3-0, while the highest-scoring clash between them was a 44-19 triumph by the Reds at the Sportsground in the 2004-'05 season. Munster's biggest league win over Connacht was a home 35-3 win in 2009-'10. Munster have held Connacht scoreless in five of their 26 league meetings.

Both teams go into tomorrow's clash with six wins from seven games. Munster's only loss this season was 25-22 away to Scarlets. Connacht's best ever start to a campaign suffered its only blemish where they were pipped 33-32 away to champions Glasgow and they are now bidding to win a sixth successive league game for the first time.

Irish Independent

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