Monday 20 November 2017

Munster bid to turn revamped home into a fortress

Ian Keatley arrives for squad training
Ian Keatley arrives for squad training
Donnchadh Boyle

Donnchadh Boyle

A week is a short time in rugby. From Rome last week in the eye of the storm, Ian Keatley finds himself well away from the spotlight this weekend after being left out of the Ireland squad for the clash with France.

Munster will need him to refocus quickly as the province start life in the newly revamped Irish Independent Park.

In fact, the province will play all of their remaining home games in the Pro12 there bar one, meaning there's a necessity to turn the Cork venue into a fortress.

Keatley will have plenty to work with in the backs. Keith Earls starts at No 13 and is partnered by Denis Hurley in the centre, who captains the province for the first time.

Up front, BJ Botha starts, while No 8 Jack O'Donoghue makes his first senior appearance for his province alongside Sean Dougall and Dave O'Callaghan in the back-row.

"It's great, huge for Cork," second-row Billy Holland said of the province's new home.

"We haven't had a game here for a year and we now have four to look forward to in the next couple of months.

"From our point of view, particularly the Cork fellas, we know it's very important to be getting Munster games down here. The flip side of it for us is that we need to perform.

"Cardiff don't have too many players in the Welsh set-up, they have rested a few fellas over the last few weekends and they are a very good attacking side especially with unstructured ball - they like to throw it around."

Cardiff are the last team to win at the Cork venue but that 17-6 victory in January 2013 is their only success in nine against the Reds. Munster are unbeaten in the six games they have played there since.

"They beat us over here two years ago so they certainly don't fear us," Holland agreed. "But we will concentrate on our own game."

Cardiff are a full 19 points off the play-off places and 11 points off sixth place which would guarantee them a spot in next season's Champions' Cup, with the seventh position going to one of the two Italian clubs who are currently propping up the table.

The visitors had the luxury of resting some players last week and have included a couple of household names. Matthew Rees and Adam Jones are in the front-row - they boast 155 international caps between them.

Fly-half Rhys Patchell makes his first appearance since November outside scrum-half Lloyd Williams, with Cory Allen and Gavin Evans in midfield.


And director of rugby Mark Hammett believes his side are ready to move up the table.

"We welcome back a number of players who have been able to have a break for rest and recovery during the LV Cup window and we look forward to seeing the benefit of that spell when we play in Ireland," he said.

Home wins are a must for Munster if they are to stay in the hunt for a semi-final place and they look to have the firepower to get off to a winning start at their new home.

Verdict: Munster

Munster - JJ Hanrahan; A Conway, K Earls, D Hurley (capt), R O'Mahony; I Keatley, D Williams; J Ryan, E Guinazu, BJ Botha; D O'Callaghan, B Holland; S Dougall, D O'Callaghan, J O'Donoghue. Reps: N Scannell, D Kilcoyne, S Archer, S Buckley, P Butler, N Cronin, R Scannell, I Dineen.

Cardiff - J Tuculet; R Smith, C Allen, G Evans, L Amorosino; R Patchell, L Williams; S Hobbs, M Rees (capt), A Jones; M Cook, F Paulo; J Turnbull, J Navidi, M Vosawai. Reps: K Dacey, T Davies, T Filise, M Normandale, E Jenkins, T Knoyle, G Davies, T Isaacs.

Ref - L Linton (SRU)

Munster v Cardiff,

Live, TG4, 7.35

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