Doak braced for ‘physical’ test as Ireland players return for derby clash
Injuries may have deprived the season’s first inter-pro of some of its star quality but nevertheless there is plenty at stake at Thomond Park this evening (6.00pm).
For players such as Simon Zebo, Paddy Jackson and Darren Cave, it is a chance to dust off the World Cup cobwebs and perhaps prove a point to Joe Schmidt who wasn’t inclined to use the trio as much as they would have hoped in the last few weeks.
Felix Jones’ untimely early retirement will have dampened the mood down south this week and the void he leaves will have to be filled. Interestingly, Andrew Conway is retained at full-back with Zebo coming onto the more unfamiliar right wing.
Given that Zebo played two games at full-back for Ireland at the World Cup, Jones’ retirement had seemingly opened the door for him to get a run in the 15 jersey but coach Anthony Foley has stuck with Conway who has shown good form.
In their two meetings last season, on aggregate, just a point separated the two sides with Munster sneaking a one-point victory in the same fixture last year (the other being a draw in Belfast).
Of the four Irish provinces, the injury toll of the World Cup has hurt Ulster the most and coach Neil Doak knows the scale of the challenge that his side face in Limerick.
“It’s not the easiest place to go. Munster are going pretty well. We certainly know it’s going to be a very physical, confrontational game,” he said. “There is always a little bit of added edge to inter-provincial games and it will be a difficult task and we know we have to match them physically. We’ve talked about the task ahead and not one of them is going to be easy, so it is a big chance for us to put in a big performance.”
Foley has made seven changes to the side that was beaten at the death by Scarlets. James Cronin and Mike Sherry come into the front-row, while Tomás O’Leary makes his first start since returning to Munster.
Donnacha Ryan is named amongst the replacements where he is joined by Uruguayan prop Mario Sagario who is in line to make his first appearance for the province.
Jackson and Cave both start for Ulster who make four changes in total. The ever-impressive Stuart McCloskey will be eager to catch the eye of Schmidt in the centre.
Munster have won their last 11 home games, a run that stretches back to last December and they should have enough to make that 12.
Munster – A Conway; S Zebo, F Saili, D Hurley, G van den Heever; I Keatley, T O’Leary; J Cronin, M Sherry, BJ Botha; D Foley, M Chisholm; CJ Stander (capt), J O’Donoghue, R Copeland. Reps: D Casey, J Ryan, M Sagario, D Ryan, J Coghlan, D Williams, R Scannell, R O’Mahony.
Ulster – P Nelson; C Gilroy, D Cave, S McCloskey, A Trimble; P Jackson, P Marshall; A Warwick, R Herring (capt), W Herbst; L Stevenson, F van der Merwe; R Wilson, S Reidy, N Williams. Reps: J Andrew, C Black, R Lutton, D Tuohy, C Henry, P Rowley, I Humphreys, S Arnold.
REF – M Mitera (FIR)
Munster v Ulster,
Live TG4 & BBC NI, 6.0