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Connacht must respond to sloppy Ulster match with a clinical display.


CONNACHT
Starting XV: 15 Darragh Leader, 14 Danie Poolman, 13 Robbie Henshaw, 12 Eoin Griffin, 11 Matt Healy, 10 Miah Nikora, 9 Kieran Marmion
1 Ronan Loughney, 2 Jason Harris-Wright, 3 Rodney Ah You, 4 Mick Kearney, 5 Andrew Browne, 6 John Muldoon (c), 7 Willie Faloon, 8 Eoin McKeon
Replacements: 16 Jack Dinneen, 17 Denis Buckley, 18 Finlay Bealham, 19 Aly Muldowney 20 Conor Gilsenan, 21 Frank Murphy, 22 Dan Parks, 23. Dave McSharry
Unavailable/Injured: Nathan White, Brett Wilkinson, Sean Henry, Dave Heffernan, James Rael, Craig Clarke, Jake Heenan, Tiernan O’Halloran, Craig Ronaldson, Paul O’Donohoe and Kyle Tonetti.

Munster
Starting XV: 15 Denis Hurley, 14 Gerhard van den Heever, 13 Johne Murphy, 12 James Downey, 11 Andrew Conway, 10 Ian Keatley, 9 Duncan Williams
1 Dave Kilcoyne , 2 Damien Varley (c), 3 John Ryan, 4 Donncha O'Callaghan, 5 Paul O'Connell, 6 CJ Stander, 7 Sean Dougall, 8 Paddy Butler
Replacements: 16 Quentin MacDonald, 17 Alan Cotter, 18 BJ Botha, 19 Billy Holland, 20 Tommy O'Donnell, 21 Gerry Hurley, 22 Conor Murray, 23 Ronan O'Mahony

Venue: The Sportground, College Road, Galway
Date: Saturday, 18th April 2014
Kick-off: 18:15
TV Broadcasts: RTÉ
Referee: Marius Mitrea (FIR, 27th competition game)
MATCH DISCUSSION THREAD ON THE FORUM


After last week's headless debacle against a sharply focused Ulster side, Connacht's head coach has decided to punish his wayward charges with wholesale banishment to the benches. In fact only eight players from last week retain their starting places for tomorrow's crunch provincial clash, with some changes coming in key positions.
In the backs Leader's impressive cameo in a flailing team sees him come into the team at fullback. To make room for him there McSharry drops to the bench, Griffin moves to inside centre and Henshaw takes the outside centre slot. On the wings there is a complete change with Carr, who did not train in the week due to a knee problem, being replaced by Healy and Poolman replacing the injured Tiernan O'Halloran. Finally Dan Parks' daft cross-field kick sees Nikora move from the bench to starting outhalf, for this week at least.
The pack sees more changes, with Ronan Loughney starting at loosehead prop, favoured over Denis Buckley. Partnering him at the coal-face is Harris-Wright and Ah You. The second-row sees Muldowney dropped to the bench and Kearney shifted over to allow Andrew Browne pack-down alongside him. Willie Faloon makes a very welcome and long-awaited return to the Connacht backrow, replacing Eoghan Masterson, whose excellent work out of his usual position will have raised his stock in the eyes of many Connacht fans.
On the bench Connacht will have little backup with the injury crisis seemingly reaching a steady-state. At hooker Connacht are relying on Galwegians club player Jack Dineen, while at tighthead Academy player Finlay Bealham is the only available backup. Muldowney covers the second-row, with Leinster academy loan Conor Gilsenan providing cover for the loose-forwards. Murphy and Parks are options for the half-backs and McSharry gives the option of a re-shuffle to allow his reintroduction.

Munster have gone no easier on the changes after their defeat to Glasgow. Felix Jones and Simon Zebo are both rested as Hurley starts at fullback and Andrew Conway come in on the wing. Gerhard van den Heever retains his spot on the opposite wing, but in the centre Downey will be partnered by Johne Murphy instead of Earls, who is rested. In the half-backs Hanrahan picked up a concussion and is replaced by Keatley and Duncan Williams starts at scrum-half.
Up front Ryan, who started at loosehead last week, will start at tighthead, with Kilcoyne being re-introduced at the loosehead side. Varley also returns to captain the side at hooker. Paul and Donnacha reform their "Golden Generation"-era partnership, adding some steely experience, and the backrow remains intact from last week against Glasgow.
The Munster bench has good options at tighthead and lock, but the most interesting inclusion is that of Gerry Hurley at 21. The scrum-half's inclusion alongside Murray at 22 looks to be a signal that we might see Penney deploy Conor Murray at out-half.

Connacht will be looking to make sure that, while they play the off-the-cuff style that Pat Lam prefers, they cut out the poor decisions and lack of concentration that turned last week's match up into an embarrassing rout. Nikora has shown some good touches this season and perhaps a change in personnel will help Connacht find their focus.
Up against the Munster backline there will be some interesting match-ups as two somewhat experimental centre partnerships meet. Murphy has been tried at outside centre previously and has been found wanting whereas the out of position Griffin will be up against the strong running Downey. That, along with Keatley and Nikora knowing each other well, means that the 10-12-13 area of the pitch could be the scene of some interesting plays.
However given that both packs will be hurting from their inability to brings their previous opponents under control we may end up watching an arm-wrestle of a game. Connacht are better equipped to handle that kind of play this week than last given the re-introduction of a proper openside flanker, Willie Faloon. Last year's Connacht Clan Player of the Season was sorely missed and will be required to combat the abrasive Dougall. That said given the relative strengths of the pack Connacht might be better off trying to keep some pace in the game.

It will be a close match, with control in possession being the most likely thing to determine victory. The ref will come in for a hard time as always (keep it clean though!), and we fans will have to play our part if we are to repeat the victory of 2008.
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