MUNSTER will look to leapfrog Guinness PRO12 leaders Connacht in the table when the Irish provinces face-off in a key fixture at Thomond Park this Saturday, 5.15pm.
Table toppers Connacht currently enjoy a one-point lead over second-placed Munster ahead of their interprovincial clash.
However, the Westerners have not won in Thomond Park since 1986.
Munster head coach Anthony Foley makes changes to his side from the one which defeated Treviso for the visit of Pat Lam’s Connacht. The changes see Tomas O’Leary come in to partner Ian Keatley at half-back, with Conor Murray nursing a bruised foot. There’s a positional change for Keith Earls which sees him move back to midfield alongside Francis Saili who switches to the inside centre berth.
Argentine World Cup star Lucas Gonzalez Amorosino will make his first start for the province on the wing. Munster’s clash with Connacht is live on Sky Sports.
Munster go into Saturday’s game on the back of a ‘free’ weekend following the cancellation of their scheduled European Champions Cup clash with Stade Francais in Paris. An exact date for the Pool 4 fixture is set to be announced shortly by competition organisers. However, it was confirmed on Friday that the game will take place at Stade Jean Bouin on the weekend of January 8-10.
Munster’s only defeat in any competition this season was 25-22 reverse at Parc y Scarlets in Round 5 of the PRO12, while Anthony Foley’s side has won their last 13 home games in the league at their two venues since the Ospreys visited Thomond Park in September 2014.
MUNSTER: Andrew Conway; Gerhard van den Heever, Keith Earls, Francis Saili, Lucas Gonzalez Amorosino; Ian Keatley, Tomas O’Leary; James Cronin, Niall Scannell, BJ Botha, Donnacha Ryan, Mark Chisholm, CJ Stander (capt), Jack O’Donoghue, Robin Copeland. Replacements: Kevin O’Byrne, Dave Kilcoyne, John Ryan, Dave Foley, Jordan Coghlan, Duncan Williams, Rory Scannell, Denis Hurley.
CONNACHT: Robbie Henshaw; Tiernan O’Halloran, Bundee Aki, Craig Ronaldson, Matt Healy; AJ MacGinty, Kieran Marmion; Denis Buckley, Shane Delahunt, Nathan White, Ultan Dillane, Aly Muldowney, John Muldoon (capt), James Connolly, Eoghan Masterson. Replacements: Dave Heffernan, Ronan Loughney, Finlay Bealham, George Naoupu, Sean O’Brien, Ian Porter, Jack Carty, Darragh Leader.
REFEREE: Ben Whitehouse (Wales)