Pro12 team news: Last chance for Connacht, 12 changes for Ulster, Leinster debutant and 100 not out for Ian Keatley
Ian Keatley will make his 100th Munster appearance against Newport-Gwent Dragons tomorrow at Irish Independent Park but the match has come too soon for Simon Zebo who misses out with a back problem.
Head coach Anthony Foley has been forced to make a number of changes with Tommy O'Donnell also missing out after he sustained a torn hamstring in Saturday's game against Ulster and is expected to be side-lined for up to eight weeks.
Duncan Casey and Peter O'Mahony were late withdrawals from this week's squad preparations with the hooker reporting mild back pain and the squad captain picking up a knock in training yesterday. Both players are expected to take a full part in next week's programme.
In total, five personnel changes are made to the side that drew 23-23 away to Ulster last Saturday with Denis Hurley named as captain for the sixth time this season.
John Ryan and BJ Botha come into the front row on either side of Eusebio Guinazu and with Donnacha Ryan making the switch to six this weekend while Billy Holland returns to the starting line-up alongside Paul O'Connell in the second row.
Munster: (15-9) Felix Jones; Keith Earls, Andrew Smith, Denis Hurley – capt., Ronan O'Mahony; Ian Keatley, Conor Murray; (1-8) John Ryan, Eusebio Guinazu, BJ Botha; Billy Holland, Paul O'Connell; Donnacha Ryan, Paddy Butler, CJ Stander.
Replacements: (16-23) Niall Scannell, Dave Kilcoyne, Stephen Archer, Sean Dougall, Jack O'Donoghue, Duncan Williams, JJ Hanrahan, Andrew Conway.
Leinster have made three changes to their starting Xv from their uninspiring 10-win over Treviso at the RDS last week for the trip to Murrayfield.
One of the changes sees a first appearance of the season at outside centre for 24 year old Clontarf man Colm O'Shea, while Leinster Academy winger Cian Kelleher could make his senior debut if introduced from the bench.
Both players were involved in the Ulster Bank League final last weekend when Kelleher's Lansdowne side defeated the reigning champions Clontarf. On Thursday evening Kelleher was awarded the Ulster Bank League Rising Star Award for his performances in the league this season.
The pack is the same pack that won against Benetton Treviso last time out with Jack McGrath, Richardt Strauss and Mike Ross in the front row. The rest of the tight five consists once again of Devin Toner and Mike McCarthy.
In the back row Jordi Murphy starts at blind side, with Sean O'Brien at open side flanker. While the try scorer from last weekend Jamie Heaslip starts from the base of the scrum at number eight and as captain.
Rob Kearney is again selected at full back with brother Dave on the left wing and Zane Kirchner on the right wing.
It's a new centre partnership for the trip to Edinburgh with Noel Reid at inside and Colm O'Shea at outside centre. As a result Ian Madigan switches to outhalf with Isaac Boss the final change as he starts at scrumhalf.
Tomorrow will be Jimmy Gopperth's last involvement in a Leinster jersey before he moves to Wasps in the summer and should he make an appearance from the bench it will be his 59th cap.
Leinster: (15-9) Rob Kearney, Zane Kirchner, Colm O'Shea, Noel Reid, Dave Kearney, Ian Madigan, Isaac Boss; (1-8) Jack McGrath, Richardt Strauss, Mike Ross, Devin Toner, Mike McCarthy, Jordi Murphy, Sean O'Brien, Jamie Heaslip.
Replacements: (16-23) Aaron dinon, Michael Bent, Tadhg Furlong, Tom Denton, Jack Conan, Luke McGrath, Jimmy Gopperth, Cian Kelleher.
Ulster boss Neil Doak is clearly focusing on the semi-finals on the weekend after next after making 12 changes to his Ulster XV from last weekend's draw with Munster for the trip to Scotsun to take on Glasgow.
With a total of six players having picked up injuries last weekend and with the province already guaranteed a play off place, only Franco van der Merwe, Louis Ludik and Chris Henry are retained from the side that faced Munster, with Ireland Under20s centre, Sam Arnold, picked for his first start for the province.
Doak has selected a strong bench for the game with internationals Rory Best, Tommy Bowe, Ruan Pienaar, Paddy Jackson, Roger Wilson and Iain Henderson all named among the replacements.
Andrew Warwick is selected at loosehead and starts his first game since January, with Rob Herring playing his 70th game for Ulster at hooker. Emerging Ireland player, Ricky Lutton, starts his first game of the season at tighthead having recovered from the injuries that have restricted his involvement in the campaign so far.
Lewis Stevenson, who recently captained the Ravens against Munster A, starts in the second row alongside Franco van der Merwe, who runs out in his 27th game of the campaign and completes his first regular season for Ulster having played in all but one of the province’s matches.
Robbie Diack, who won his 150th cap for Ulster last weekend, starts at Number 8, with Clive Ross named at blindside and Chris Henry captaining the side from openside.
Paul Marshall plays his 22nd game of the season and starts at scrumhalf, while Ian Humphreys, who is currently third in the PRO12 Golden Boot standings, is selected at outhalf.
Stuart McCloskey, who was named BT Young Player of the Year at the recent Ulster Rugby Awards, is picked at inside centre, with Sam Arnold, who won Hughes Insurance Academy Player of the Year, starting his first game for Ulster at outside centre.
Michael Allen, who will play for Edinburgh next season, is selected on the left wing, with Rory Scholes named on the right and Louis Ludik continuing at fullback.
Props Kyle McCall and Bronson Ross join the six internationals on the replacements bench.
Ulster:(15-9): L Ludik; R Scholes, S Arnold, S McCloskey, M Allen, I Humphreys, P Marshall; (1-8): A Warwick, R Herring, R Lutton, L Stevenson, F van der Merwe, C Ross, C Henry (C), R Diack.
Replacements (16-23): R Best, K McCall, B Ross, I Henderson, R Wilson, R Pienaar, P Jackson, T Bowe.
Connacht coach Pat Lam has made three changes to his team for the visit of table-toppers Ospreys to the Sportsgrounds.
The province still have an outside chance of making the Top Six and earning a Champions Cup place for next season but they need to win and hope that the Scarlets, who are four points ahead of them in the table, lose to Treviso in Italy.
Scrum half Kieran Marmion starts in a backline that also sees Connacht centurion and record try scorer Fionn Carr named on the right wing.
Up front, Galway man Andrew Browne is promoted from the bench to join Aly Muldowney in the second row.
John Muldoon, who has started all 22 PRO12 fixtures this season, will once again captain the side from a back row with Eoghan Masterson and Eoin McKeon.
The most notable inclusion on the bench is Connacht’s most capped player of all time Michael Swift who has worked his way back from injury to take his place amongst the replacements for what could be his last home game before he retires. The 37-year-old, who has played 263 times for the province, is also joined on the bench by Miah Nikora and Shane O’Leary.
Commenting on the team selection and upcoming game, Pat Lam said: “Losing Darragh and Danie in the same week to what is already extensive injury list was obviously a blow but with the culture of team work we have, it’s just another opportunity for the next guy to step up and do the job.
“This is probably the most experienced team that we can put out and that will be vital against Ospreys. No man has more experience than Michael Swift. He has worked extremely hard the last few months to get himself back to this position and the preparation, detail and intensity he showed in training this week demonstrated how deserved his inclusion is in the match day squad.
“We all know the enormity of this game. Since pre-season, we have set our sights on a top 6 finish and to be going into round 22 with our ultimate goal still a possibility is very exciting. Its uncharted waters for Connacht Rugby to have so much to play for at this stage of the season and we’re really relishing it. Come 5pm tomorrow, we will know our fate. We have no control over other results so all we can do is focus on winning at the Sportsground in front of our supporters to give ourselves the best possible chance of qualification and to finish the season on a massive high.”
Connacht: (15-9) Tiernan O’Halloran, Fionn Carr, Robbie Henshaw, Bundee Aki, Matt Healy, Jack Carty, Kieran Marmion; (1-8) Denis Buckley, Tom McCartney, Rodney Ah You, Andrew Browne, Aly Muldowney, John Muldoon, Eoghan Masterson, Eoin McKeon
Replacements: (16-23) Dave Heffernan, JP Cooney, Finlay Bealham, Michael Swift, George Naoupu, John Cooney, Miah Nikora, Shane O’Leary