Friday 14 December 2018

Munster mean business with Murray back in starting role

Conor Murray gives a pass to Arno Botha during Munster training in Limerick earlier this week. Photo: Diarmuid Greene/Sportsfile
Conor Murray gives a pass to Arno Botha during Munster training in Limerick earlier this week. Photo: Diarmuid Greene/Sportsfile
David Kelly

David Kelly

There was a time when Munster would treat European auditions with withering disdain.

Then again, there was a time when Munster could afford to treat European auditions with withering disdain. Not these days.

Just as he did in the Aviva, Johann van Graan is laying down a marker ahead of the back-to-back Champions Cup games against Castres.

Few can ever know what humour the perennially capricious French will carry with them to Thomond Park next weekend.

The Munster coach, however, is already determining the mood music of his side. Having his main man - Conor Murray - at the vanguard will comfort him.

"He has worked really hard to get back and it is a great lift for the team. He did well when he came on last weekend and it's all about building confidence," said Van Graan of Murray. "This will be good preparation ahead of Europe for us."

Intent

Murray's first start of the season captures the headlines but, in selecting Peter O'Mahony so soon after his remarkable effort against the All Blacks, the South African's declaration of intent is obvious.

Fineen Wycherley, Kevin O'Byrne, Ronan O'Mahony and Rory Scannell may have all scored tries in Munster's 32-7 win at Zebre last weekend but only Scannell, the most experienced of the quintet, is retained.

There are five changes in the backline where Andrew Conway and Keith Earls are back on the wings after their exploits with Ireland.

As hinted earlier in the week, another international, centre Chris Farrell returns from injury and starts his first game since January after joining Murray in a comfortable introduction from the bench in Italy.

JJ Hanrahan should have started that game but fell ill; he will also get his chance today. Up front there is a new front row with Dave Kilcoyne and John Ryan back from Ireland duty, flanking Niall Scannell, for whom this is a significant month as he seeks to advance his World Cup claims further.

Tadhg Beirne adds his burgeoning international experience in the second row with Billy Holland joining him. O'Mahony and openside Chris Cloete are added to the significant heft of Arno Botha in the back row.

Edinburgh, who lost to Dragons away last weekend, seem just as uninterested in this trip, too, judging by their team-sheet.

"Everybody is in good spirits and knows exactly where we are going," said Van Graan.

Tonight will bring them five points closer.

Verdict: Munster

Munster v Edinburgh, Irish Independent Park, Live eir Sport 1, 7.35pm

Who is your sportstar of the year?

Vote in the Irish Independent Sport Star Awards and you could win the ultimate sports prize.

Prizes include, a trip to Old Trafford to watch Man United take on Liverpool in the Premier League, tickets to Ireland's home games in the Six Nations, All Ireland football and hurling final tickets and much more.

Simply click here to register your vote

Irish Independent

Sport Newsletter

The best sport action straight to your inbox every morning.

Editor's Choice

Also in Sport