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Munster look to take wind out of Connacht's sails


Robin Copeland will be a key player for Munster

Robin Copeland will be a key player for Munster

Robin Copeland will be a key player for Munster

This could resemble a bear trap for Connacht as they make their way down to what has always been a treacherous Thomond Park this evening (KO 5.15, Sky Sports 4).

It suits Munster fine and dandy that Connacht have been the success story of Irish rugby so far.

While it would be pushing it to suggest the Westerners are favourites for this one, they will certainly travel more in confidence than hope.

Interestingly, coach Pat Lam has positioned Robbie Henshaw at full-back in a sign of trust towards inside centre Craig Ronaldson, an auxiliary out-half.

US Eagle international AJ MacGinty, now the veteran of a World Cup campaign, will make his first PRO12 start on a very big stage.

The ex-Blackrock College 10 is not new to the scene, needing no reminder of the spicy nature of these inter-provincials.

The physical exchanges between Bundee Aki and Francis Saili should be worth the entrance price alone.

The quicksilver work of left wing Matt Healy must be respected, while Tiernan O'Halloran has attracted special mention from his coach.

For Munster, it is about time the bulk of CJ Stander and the athleticism of Robin Copeland was activated in the back row.

The front five doesn't look too shabby either with Donnacha Ryan and Mark Chisholm set to pose problems as props BJ Botha and James Cronin provide guidance for rookie hooker Niall Scannell, the former Ireland U20 captain.

To claim an away win, Connacht will have to unsettle and undermine Munster's set-piece.

This is where Aly Muldowney can have a serious say in the outcome as long as the front row of Nathan White, Shane Delahunt and Denis Buckley can hold up their end of the argument.

Munster: A Conway; G van den Heever, K Earls, F Saili, L Amorosino; I Keatley, T O'Leary; J Cronin, N Scannell, BJ Botha; D Ryan, M Chisholm; CJ Stander (capt), J O'Donoghue, R Copeland.

Connacht: R Henshaw; T O'Halloran, B Aki, C Ronaldson, M Healy; AJ McGinty, K Marmion; D Buckley, S Delahunt, N White; U Dillane, A Muldonwey; J Muldoon (capt), J Connolly, E Masterson.

Verdict: Munster