Munster hope to ben­e­fit from Lions’ re­turn in clash with Cardiff Blues

The Irish Times - Sports Weekend - - SPORTS -

Munster v Cardifff Blues Thomond Park, 1.30pm Live on Sky Sports Ac­tion

The re­turn of Munster’s three test Lions could hardly be more timely. Conor Mur­ray, Peter O’Ma­hony and CJ Stander are parachuted straight into the start­ing line-up against Cardiff Blues, in ad­vance of next Satur­day’s trip to the Aviva to face Le­in­ster and then the open­ing Euro­pean Cham­pi­ons Cup jousts away to Cas­tres and at home to Rac­ing. But just as per­ti­nently, it comes in the wake of last week’s beat­ing in Glas­gow.

Given Munster’s three open­ing wins over Benet­ton, the Chee­tahs and the Ospreys, per­haps not too much can be read into one de­feat. The loss it­self wasn’t sur­pris­ing. If Glas­gow weren’t go­ing to avenge last sea­son’s four de­feats to Munster by beat­ing them at home last week­end, they never would. Nonethe­less, Munster slipped off tack­les and strug­gled when Glas­gow upped the tempo on their ar­ti­fi­cial pitch.

Ex­pec­ta­tions to­day will be height­ened by the sprin­kling of star­dust the Lions pro­vide, while Dave Kil­coyne, Niall Scan­nell and John Ryan all make their first starts of the sea­son, as does Robin Copeland in the sec­ond row. Ian Keat­ley comes in at half-back and Jaco Taute re­turns in mid­field.

Keith Earls’s de­layed start to the sea­son, due to a groin prob­lem, con­tin­ues and with Si­mon Zebo also ab­sent, hav­ing not trained fully dur­ing the week, the back three of Alex Woot­ton, Dar­ren Sweet­nam and An­drew Con­way re­mains in situ for the fifth game.

JJ Han­ra­han is also in line for his first Munster ap­pear­ance since the 2015 Pro12 fi­nal, fol­low­ing his two-year so­journ in Northamp­ton, off the bench. Shan­non lock Sean McCarthy is in­cluded in his first match-day squad this sea­son, while new ar­rival from Sara­cens, Mark Flana­gan, could make his de­but off the bench.

After a trou­bled start on and off the pitch, Cardiff ar­rive buoyed by last week’s first win cour­tesy of Willis Hala­holo’s sec­ond try.

Forth­com­ing de­par­ture

Like Eras­mus, Danny Wil­son has an­nounced his forth­com­ing de­par­ture, al­beit at the end of the sea­son. He makes eight changes in what looks like a more un­tried se­lec­tion. There’s a com­pet­i­tive de­but for cen­tre Jack Roberts, who joined from Le­ices­ter in the sum­mer, and a first start for flanker Olly Robin­son. Fit-again cap­tain Blaine Scully will also start.

Bear­ing all that in mind, Munster’s need for a win should be re­alised.

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