Another Case Of Post Heineken Cup Blues
27th December 2005 By Munster Rugby
Ulster became the third side to display post-Heineken Cup blues when they were beaten 24-19 by Leinster in the Celtic League at Ravenhill.
Ulster became the third side to display post-Heineken Cup blues when they were beaten 24-19 by Leinster in the Celtic League at Ravenhill just over a week after their interest in the premier competition was effectively ended.
On Thursday last, Ospreys – their Heineken cup campaign ended in dramatic circumstances just four days earlier – produced a lacklustre display at home losing 28-9 to Cardiff and the following night Dragons went down 28-16 to the Scarlets at Rodney Parade.
What the three sides had in common was the nature of their respective defeats, each playing nowhere near their normal standard.
This evening Munster can reclaim their place at the top of the table if they can defeat Connacht in Thomond Park. As things stand Munster are in second place on 32 points, the same total as Edinburgh Gunners, and with the Gunners to follow a trip to the RDS, Christmas and New Year will go a long way in determining the outcome of this competition.
Good new for Munster is that Paul O’Connell returns to action for the first time since injuring his hand in the game against Llanelli in September. Mindful obviously of the hectic schedule that his squad faces, coach Declan Kidney uses his squad to good effect and there is a starting place in the backline for Anton Pitout, Barry Murphy, halves Jeremy Manning and Tomas O’Leary while Ronan O’Gara and Peter Stringer are named on a strong bench.
The presence of Trevor Hogan allows Kidney give Mick O’Driscoll – outstanding in each of the eleven games he has started this season – some time-out and the same is the case with Jerry Flannery, Marcus Horan and Anthony Foley who are all named on the bench.
David Wallace was ruled out of contention with a back strain and Kidney re-jigs his back-row with Denis Leamy moving across to the open-side and Donncha O’Callaghan handed the number six jersey while Stephen Keogh takes over from Foley at number 8.
Munster: S Payne; A Pitout, B Murphy, G Connolly, A Horgan; J Manning, T O’Leary; F Pucciariello, D Fogarty, J Hayes; T Hogan, P O’Connell capt; D O’Callaghan, D Leamy, S Keogh.
Replacements: M Horan, J Flannery, M O’Driscoll, A Foley, P Stringer, R O’Gara, T Halstead/J Kelly.
Connacht: Matt Mostyn; Ted Robinson, John Hearty/Andrew Mailei, Gavin Williams, Conor McPhillips; David Slemen/Paul Warwick,Chris Keane/Tom Tierney; John McFarland/Ray Hogan, John Fogarty/Joe Merrigan, Stephen Knoop/Adrian Clarke; Andrew Gallagher/David Gannon, Andrew Farley; Mike Swift, Matt Lacey/Brendan O’Connor, John Muldoon.
Referee: Alain Rolland (IRFU). Touch Judges: Colin Stanley (IRFU), Ken Henley-Willis (IRFU)