Conway shows 2020 vision as he pens new deal with Munster
Andrew Conway has quashed any potential doubts about his desire to feature for Ireland at the 2019 World Cup by inking a new deal which will see him stay in Ireland until 2020.
Slated as the obvious successor to Paris-bound full-back Simon Zebo at provincial level, and a viable challenger to start for Ireland there too in coming years, the former Leinster man has developed into a key component of Munster back three since quitting his home province.
That Conway will rest this weekend reflects how integral he remains to Joe Schmidt's Irish plans; in a neat nod to succession planning, Academy graduate Stephen Fitzgerald, 22, will start today from full-back having extended his development contract by a year.
A proud day too for the Déise as Jack O'Donoghue becomes the first Waterford player to captain Munster in the professional era having previously led Munster 'A' along with Waterpark and Munster and Ireland underage sides.
Twenty-one years after Ben Cronin won the last of his two caps, O'Donoghue is on the same mark but is sure to earn more. He will do well to emulate the greatest of them all, Barry Bresnihan.
Gonzaga's first international, centre Bresnihan played for UCD, Lansdowne, Munster and London Irish before winning 25 Irish caps (six tries) as well as three caps for the Lions (two tries) on the 1966 and 1968 tours to the Antipodes and South Africa.
O'Donoghue will line out in the pack alongside Gerbrandt Grobler, who will hopefully do his best to now proceed with a career that the IRFU have yet to determine should have been allowed proceed here in the first place. Many still doubt it should.
Munster make ten changes from the side that eased past Zebre last weekend but this could be a tricky gig as fitful Cardiff are capable of sparking into sparkling form once spring has sprung.
Tyler Bleyendaal's return from another complicated injury is a significant plus as the business end of the season approaches.
Munster have won only once on the road in league fare since mid-September - and that against Zebre - but Wales is a happy hunting ground; today would mark a sixth successive win in the Principality.
Munster have won six of the last seven against the capital side, and aside from a brace of victories in 2016, the Welshmen have lost seven of the last nine against the Reds. And, even though Cardiff are unbeaten at home since September, their sorry run should be extended.
Cardiff Blues - R Williams; A Summerhill, G Smith, R Lee-Lo, O Lane; J Evans, L Williams; G Jenkins (capt), M Rees, T Filise, G Earle, S Davies, M Cook, E Jenkins, N Williams. Reps: K Myhill, R Gill, D Lewis, J Turnbull, O Robinson, T Williams, S Shingler, R Edwards,
Munster - S Fitzgerald; D Sweetnam, S Arnold, R Scannell, R O'Mahony; I Keatley, D Williams; D Kilcoyne, R Marshall, J Ryan, G Grobler, D O'Shea, J O'Donoghue (capt), C Cloete, R Copeland. Reps: M Sherry, J Cronin, S Archer, J Kleyn, D O'Callaghan, J Hart, T Bleyendaal, S Zebo.
Ref - Stuart Barry (SARU)
- Cardiff Blues v Munster, live, Sky Sports Main Event, 5.30