Saturday 24 February 2018

Nagle can help Reds drive past Scarlets

Ruaidhri O'Connor

Ruaidhri O'Connor

WITH the Australian 'distraction' out of the way, it's time for Munster to return to the mundane world of the Magners League with the visit of the Scarlets to Musgrave Park tomorrow.

Tony McGahan will be hoping that his team have come down from Tuesday night's highs in time to re-focus on domestic matters. Their job is to stay on course while the big guns remain on international duty.

Scarlets are enjoying a revival this year and the second-placed side can go top with victory in Cork. Only two of their players were involved with Wales last night, although teenage sensation George North and pivot Stephen Jones are among their game-changers.

McGahan has largely kept faith with those who did so well at a windswept Thomond Park in midweek, with just two changes to the side. Alan Quinlan comes in for Peter O'Mahony, who drops to the bench, while Keith Earls' presence among Ireland's substitutes sees Barry Murphy start at outside centre.

It's another opportunity for Peter Borlase to find his feet in Irish rugby after receiving mixed reviews against the Wallabies, while Ian Nagle can enhance a growing reputation in the second-row.

Duncan Williams was another youngster to shine against the Wallabies and again is included in the No 9 jersey, while he has plenty of experience outside him with the backline packed with experienced talent.

The visitors have named a strong side and will make the journey across the water with confidence they can upset a Munster side shorn of eight members of the international team.

The Scarlets are on a four-game unbeaten run after defeating Leeds and London Irish in Anglo Welsh Cup clashes on consecutive weekends.

Regan King will pose plenty of problems for a centre partnership in Sam Tuitupou and Murphy, who have little experience of playing together, while Rhys Priestland has deputised well for Jones at ten.

Coach Nigel Davies is aware of his side's task, but fancies their chances of causing an upset against the understrength hosts. "They've had a massive result this week beating Australia," he said. "But this will be no bigger game than last week and we came through that against a strong London Irish side.


"We've got a positive momentum at the moment and we've worked hard over the past 20 months to develop this group and build strength throughout this squad. As a result we now have a group of players who can more than ably step in when our more recognised stars are not available."

That may well be, but Munster proved they have the depth to cope with some of the biggest names and they should do enough tomorrow to extend their lead at the top.

Verdict: Munster

MUNSTER -- J Murphy; D Howlett, B Murphy, S Tuitupou, D Hurley; P Warwick, D Williams; W du Preez, D Varley, P Borlase; B Holland, I Nagle; A Quinlan, N Ronan, J Coughlan. Replacements: M Sherry, D Ryan, S Archer, P O'Mahony, T O'Donnell, C Murray, T Gleeson, S Deasy.

SCARLETS -- D Evans; M Stoddart, G Maule, R King, L Williams; R Priestland, M Roberts; I Thomas, K Owens, P Edwards; L Reed, D Day; A Shingler, J Edwards (capt), B Morgan. Replacements: E Phillips, P John, S Gardner, D Welch, J Fa'amatuainu, T Knoyle, D Newton, S Williams.

REF -- J Jones (WRU).

Munster v Scarlets,

Live, tomorrow, TG4, 5.35

Irish Independent

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