Munster make two changes, from the side that started against Edinburgh last time out, for Saturday’s clash with Magners League title pacesetters Ulster in Thomond Park Stadium (5pm).
Both those changes come in the pack with Academy player Stephen Archer coming into the front row in place of the injured Darragh Hurley and Alan Quinlan adding his considerable experience to the back row ahead of Niall Ronan who is named among the replacements.
Archer replaced Hurley in Murrayfield and although he was named in the extended squad earlier in the week, the injury to the shoulder he sustained there failed to respond to treatment. Hurley was present when Munster trained in Musgrave Park yesterday – in front of an audience of several hundred – but was confined to working with the fitness coaches while Archer was put through his paces with the squad.
Julien Brugnaut will operate in his favoured loose-head position having started the game against Edinburgh on the opposite side of the front-row. Quinlan, surprisingly omitted from Declan Kidney’s international squad announced on Tuesday, comes back into the back-row at the expense of Ronan who is preferred on the Munster bench to Donnacha Ryan who is included in Kidney’s squad.
A sub-Academy prop, Dave Kilcoyne will provide the back up to Brugnaut and Archer. Kilcoyne from UL Bohemians made a good impression in the recent Munster A victory over Leinster in Clonmel RFC.
Although they’re only five points off the pace, all the talk is of Munster’s current performances with an acknowledgement from team manager Shaun Payne that Saturday’s needs to improve if Munster are to maintain their unbeaten home record this season. "We are acutely aware that our performances to date haven’t been up to scratch and we’ll be looking to do something about that Saturday." he said.
"There has been a fair bit of disruption recently but we’re not using that as an excuse, " he continued. "I think there has been parts of our play that has been very good at times in recent games but we’re lacking consistency and that’s an area we’re looking to improve.
"There’s also a confidence factor when things aren’t going the way you have planned so if we can get a little rhythm into our play, get the confidence levels up then I think we’ll see a performance nearer to what we expect of ourselves."
Munster: Paul Warwick; Ian Dowling, Lifeimi Mafi, Jean de Villiers, Keith Earls; Ronan O’Gara, Tomas O’Leary; Julien Brugnaut, Denis Fogarty, Stephen Archer; Donncha O’Callaghan, Paul O’Connell capt; Alan Quinlan, D Wallace, D Leamy. Replacements: Damien Varley, Dave Kilcoyne, Mick O’Driscoll, Niall Ronan, Peter Stringer, Denis Hurley, Felix Jones.