Hagan looks like best bet to prop up Westerners

Des Berry

Connacht v Munster, The Sportsground, Live TG4 (KO 6.10)

There is a solid argument that the superior powers in the game may leave behind the best of the Ireland-bred options at Connacht in tight-head Jamie Hagan, writes Des Berry.

The former Balbriggan prop was rated highly as a long-term prospect at Leinster. As Mike Ross can attest, cornerstone tight-heads need game time to find their feet.

Hagan has impressed coach Eric Elwood enough to win the relative accolade as first-choice tight-head at the development province.

Munster may not be moving through the gears but certainly have the match-winners.

Half-backs Ronan O'Gara and Peter Stringer are playing well enough if their pack of forwards do what they have to in the tight. Hooker Mike Sherry has shown solid form when given a chance.

Former Canterbury tight-head Peter Borlase is better than he has shown.

Flankers Alan Quinlan and Niall Ronan are always effective at this level and they will provide plenty of experience for Ireland U-20 number eight Patrick Butler to do his thing from the base.

The basic facts dictate that Connacht have beaten Munster just once since 1986. It came in December 2008 (12-6) at The Sportsground.

Elwood's men have slumped to five straight losses to drop into familiar territory near the foot of the table. They do not possess the confidence required to take down the leaders.

Verdict: Munster

Connacht: I Keatley; D Fanning, N Ta'auso, K Matthews (capt), F Carr; M Nikora, C Willis; R Sweeney, S Cronin, J Hagan, M Swift, M McCarthy, A Browne, J O'Connor, E Taylor.

Munster: P Warwick; B Murphy, T Gleeson, L Mafi, D Hurley; R O'Gara (capt), P Stringer; W du Preez, M Sherry, P Borlase, D Ryan, I Nagle, A Quinlan, N Ronan, P Butler.