Friday 22 September 2017

Penney out to keep the ball rolling

Cian Tracey

Cian Tracey

League leaders Munster travel to Wales this weekend for the first of two consecutive away Pro12 games against Welsh opposition.

Having seen off Ospreys at Thomond Park last time out, Rob Penney will be hoping that his side can continue the recent good form that has seen them pick up three crucial wins against teams who will expect to be challenging for the title come next May.

Penney has made five changes to his side from the Ospreys clash, with James Cronin coming in for Dave Kilcoyne, who drops to the bench, and Billy Holland starting ahead of Donncha O'Callaghan.

There are three changes in the back line, as Cathal Sheridan and JJ Hanrahan form a fresh half-back partnership. Andrew Conway also comes into the side having returned from injury. Felix Jones starts at full-back after being released by Ireland,

Munster are boosted by the return of Denis Hurley, who takes his place on an experienced bench that includes Mike Sherry and James Coughlan along with O'Callaghan and Kilcoyne.

With Ian Keatley ruled out through injury, Hanrahan is once again chosen to pull the strings at out-half.

The 21-year-old has been in impressive form lately and he will be looking to further Penney's selection headache ahead of December's back-to-back Heineken Cup games against Perpignan.

Keatley's absence also means that academy out-half Johnny Holland comes into the match-day squad and he'll be hoping to make his first Pro12 appearance for Munster from the bench.

Munster haven't played a game in the last three weeks, whereas Cardiff Blues have two collisions in the LV=Cup under their belt. Director of rugby Phil Davies has made five changes from the side that defeated Ospreys last weekend.

Taufa'ao Filise is recalled in the front- row, while a new-look back-row sees Andries Pretorius and Josh Navidi come into the starting XV, alongside former Leinster academy No 8 Robin Copeland.

Tom Williams starts at full-back, while Lewis Jones will partner Simon Humberstone at half-back. Gareth Davies returns among the replacements.

The Blues are without several first-team players including winning Lions series skipper Sam Warburton. Having already been beaten four times in the league this season, they can ill-afford another slip-up against a high-flying Munster side.

BUOYED

The Blues have won just one of their last six meetings with Irish opposition, but will be buoyed by the fact that they beat Munster in Musgrave Park last season.

The game will be played on Cardiff's artificial surface, which was modelled on the University of Limerick's new 3G surface that Munster regularly train on.

Munster have not lost in Cardiff since 2010 and with the international break drawing to a close, those selected will be looking to consolidate their places in the team and Munster's position at the top of the table.

Verdict: Munster

Cardiff Blues – T Williams; R Smith, G Evans, D Hewitt, C Czekaj; S Humberstone, L Jones; S Hobbs (capt), K Dacey, T Filise; M Cook, J Down; A Pretorius, J Navidi, R Copeland. Reps: R Williams, T Davies, B Bourrust, T Young, R Watts-Jones, L Hamilton, T Williams, G Davies.

Munster – F Jones; A Conway, C Laulala, I Dineen, J Murphy; JJ Hanrahan, C Sheridan; J Cronin, D Varley (capt), BJ Botha; D Foley, B Holland; D O'Callaghan, S Dougall, CJ Stander. Reps: M Sherry, D Kilcoyne, S Archer, D O'Callaghan, J Coughlan, D Williams, J Holland, D Hurley.

Ref – D Wilkinson (IRFU)

Cardiff Blues v Munster,

Live, RTE2, 6.30

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