Monday 17 December 2018

Stage set for Christmas cracker at Thomond

Munster head coach Johann van Graan. Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile
Munster head coach Johann van Graan. Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

Ruaidhri O'Connor​

Munster coach Johann van Graan puts his unbeaten start as Munster coach on the line at a sold-out Thomond Park this afternoon and the South African has picked a formidable line-up for the eagerly-awaited Guinness PRO14 derby against Leinster.

The Reds boss has named close to his full-strength team for the interprovincial clash, with Leinster's Leo Cullen fielding a much-changed line-up.

Although he has made 12 changes and is without the likes of Rob Kearney, Garry Ringrose, Isa Nacewa, Johnny Sexton, Scott Fardy, Sean O'Brien and the suspended Cian Healy from their win over Exeter, Leinster can still start 10 Ireland internationals as well as recent signing James Lowe, who was left out of their European clashes.

The New Zealander is part of an exciting back-three alongside the highly-rated Jordan Larmour and pacy Barry Daly, who was a surprise addition to Ireland's pre-Six Nations camp last weekend. Jack McGrath captains the side for the first time, while Tadhg Furlong will be expected to make an impact off the bench.

Van Graan recalls Andrew Conway and Rhys Marshall who missed the win over Leicester due to concussion, while Keith Earls replaces Alex Wootton and Tommy O'Donnell comes in for Chris Cloete. Simon Zebo is on the bench.

Munster won this fixture last season and are hoping to keep pace with Glasgow Warriors who are 12 points clear at the top of Conference A, while Leinster are three points behind Scarlets in Conference B.

Van Graan has steered his team to three wins since arriving, beating Ospreys and Leicester twice, and his team can go into the new year on a high if they can secure festive bragging rights over their old foes with another victory today.

MUNSTER - A Conway; D Sweetnam, S Arnold, R Scannell, K Earls; I Keatley, C Murray; D Kilcoyne, R Marshall, S Archer; J Kleyn, B Holland; P O'Mahony (capt), T O'Donnell, CJ Stander. Reps: N Scannell, J Cronin, J Ryan, D O'Shea, J O'Donoghue, D Williams, JJ Hanrahan, S Zebo.

LEINSTER - J Larmour; B Daly, R O'Loughlin, R Henshaw, J Lowe; R Byrne, J Gibson-Park; J McGrath (capt), J Tracy, M Bent; DToner, J Ryan; J Murphy, D Leavy, J Conan. Reps: R Strauss, E Byrne, T Furlong, M Kearney, J van der Flier, N McCarthy, C Marsh, N Reid.

Ref - N Owens (Wales).

Irish Independent

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