Munster Rugby name strong side for trip to Connacht

Donn O'Sullivan

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Donn O'Sullivan

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Munster Rugby name strong side for trip to Connacht

Simon Zebo, departing the province at the end of the season, starts at full back on Friday night

Munster Rugby have named their side to face Connacht at the Sportsground on Friday night (7.35pm) with three changes made to the side that defeated Racing 92 in the Champions Cup.

In the front five John Ryan and Mark Flanagan are promoted from the bench, with Ryan joining Dave Kilcoyne and Rhys Marshall in the front row as Flanagan links up with his second row partner Billy Holland once again.  

The international back row trio of captain Peter O’Mahony, Tommy O’Donnell and CJ Stander complete the pack.

The half-back pairing of Conor Murray and Ian Keatley continue as they were and the only change to the backline is a straight swop with Andrew Conway taking the place of Darren Sweetnam to start on the wing, joining Keith Earls and Simon Zebo in the back three.

Munster:  Simon Zebo; Andrew Conway, Chris Farrell, Rory Scannell, Keith Earls, Ian Keatley, Conor Murray; Dave Kilcoyne, Rhys Marshall, John Ryan; Mark Flanagan, Billy Holland; Peter O’Mahony Capt., Tommy O’Donnell, CJ Stander.

Replacements:  Kevin O’Byrne, Liam O’Connor, Stephen Archer, Sean McCarthy, Jack O’Donoghue, Duncan Williams, JJ Hanrahan, Darren Sweetnam.

Meanwhile Connacht Head Coach Kieran Keane has named his starting XV for Friday night's eagerly awaited interprovincial clash.

John Muldoon returns to captain the side with Kieran Marmion, Ultan Dillane, Finlay Bealham, Tom McCartney, Tom Farrell, Jarrad Butler and Cian Kelleher also coming into the starting team.

Tiernan O'Halloran starts at full-back with Darragh Leader and Kelleher on the two flanks. Farrell joins Bundee Aki in the centre as Marmion and Jack Carty form the half-back partnership.

Bealham, McCartney and Denis Buckley make up the front row with Dillane and James Cannon in the second row. Muldoon's return sees him wear the number 8 jersey with Eoin McKeon in at blindside and Jarrad Butler at openside.

Niyi Adeolokun is named in the matchday 23 for the first time this season as he returns from injury.

Speaking ahead of the clash, Kieran Keane said: "There has been constant improvement from the lads, which has been refreshing for us. It has become pretty clear to me these local derbies are really important to the players, and they have been putting their hands up because they really want to play, so it brings excitement. I am excited by the occasion as much as they are."

Due to the very high demand for tickets, additional terracing is being installed at the Sportsground to cater for the increased capacity.

Kick-off 7.35pm:

(15-9) Tiernan O'Halloran, Darragh Leader, Bundee Aki, Tom Farrell, Cian Kelleher, Jack Carty, Kieran Marmion, (1-8) Denis Buckley, Tom McCartney, Finlay Bealham; Ultan Dillane, James Cannon; Eoin McKeon, Jarrad Butler, John Muldoon (Capt).

Replacements (16-23): Dave Heffernan, Denis Coulson, Conor Carey, Quinn Roux, Eoghan Masterson, Caolin Blade, Craig Ronaldson, Niyi Adeolokun.