Mur­ray primed for first ap­pear­ance of the sea­son

The Irish Times - Sports Weekend - - RUGBY -

Sun­day Ze­bre v Mun­ster Sta­dio Ser­gio Lan­franchi, 3.30 Eir Sport 2 Conor Mur­ray and Chris Far­rell re­turn for Mun­ster to­mor­row as Jo­hann van Graan’s side seek a sixth Pro14 win of the sea­son.

Mun­ster travel to Italy this evening ahead of to­mor­row’s clash with Ze­bre and as well as the tough ex­pe­di­tion to Parma, Mun­ster have to cope with a five-day turn­around af­ter this game with Ed­in­burgh up next in Cork. The south­ern prov­ince are primed for a tough chal­lenge de­spite never los­ing to to­mor­row’s op­po­nents.

Italy play New Zealand in Rome this af­ter­noon and as a re­sult we see an un­der­strength Ze­bre, but six of the squad have been re­leased by Conor O’Shea with Gi­ulio Bisegni and Jimmy Tuiv­aiti named to start.

Mun­ster, too, have named a very dif­fer­ent side al­though both Mur­ray and Far­rell are named on the bench fol­low­ing their lengthy in­jury lay-offs.

“Over there it is dif­fi­cult. They are a tough side,” said Mun­ster coach JP Fer­reira. “They beat Cardiff, they beat Bris­tol Bears a while back.

Fast game

“They are the se­cond high­est team at keep­ing the ball in the league, they don’t kick it that of­ten, so I am ex­pect­ing a high-paced fast game, an off­load game and the phys­i­cal­ity will be up there.

“They have big ball car­ri­ers. Some of their in­ter­na­tion­als might be out, but I think it’s through their squad that is what they will do.

“Ob­vi­ously that is what their coach will be driv­ing: the ball in play time, to keep the ball in play time up and keep the ball as long as they can, es­pe­cially in Ze­bre where the crowd will be be­hind them.”

The much changed Mun­ster team sees Ro­nan O’Ma­hony named for the first time this sea­son, while flanker Gavin Coombes is handed a first start af­ter his ap­pear­ance against Chee­tahs last time out. Conor Oliver is also on the bench af­ter a foot in­jury, while Tyler Bleyen­daal cap­tains the side from in­side cen­tre, where is paired with Rory Scan­nell.

Michael Bradley’s Ze­bre have handed a first start to for­mer Northamp­ton Saints winger Jamie El­liott, while flanker Maxime Mbandà makes his first start of the sea­son af­ter the knee in­jury he sus­tained in the Six Na­tions.

In­ter­na­tion­als

De­spite still be­ing with­out their Ire­land in­ter­na­tion­als, Fer­reira is sat­is­fied with Mun­ster’s se­cond place in Con­fer­ence A and feels they will be well rep­re­sented in Italy.

“We’re on the right track so far. We are now through our first block and it’s def­i­nitely where I want to be.

“We are im­prov­ing our depth in the squad and they’re get­ting a feel for me. Ev­ery week is so much eas­ier.”

Conor Mur­ray: re­turns for Mun­ster to­mor­row for Jo­hann van Graan’s side

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