Match Preview: Ulster Rugby vs. Munster Rugby

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Match Preview: Ulster Rugby vs. Munster Rugby

Post by ADM »

[tag=image] ... NS1976.svg[/tag][tag=content]Whoever decided interpros should be the same week as we're preparing for a Test against the All Blacks needs a stern talking to.

Still, we can only work with the hand we've been dealt and fortunately we have the returns of Wiehahn Herbst and Dan Tuohy to offset a portion of the international losses. It's not ideal that their returns from long term lay-offs are to be thrown straight in against one of the biggest packs in the Guinness PRO12, but given our injury situation it was more a necessity than anything else.

We come into this game on something of a minor high given our ability to squeeze out that win over Exeter which, for the moment at least, keeps our European hopes alive until December. It also ended a slide of two consecutive defeats and gets us back in that winning mindset as Munster come north this weekend.

Make no doubt about it, they will still be backed by a lot of emotion in the wake of Anthony Foley's death. We saw how much Nevin's passing inspired us to an excellent run of results, one can only imagine they'll be experiencing something similar. But, as has been said all week, the best way to honour a legend of the Irish game is to make it a great game between two great Irish provinces.

It'll be an interesting game indeed because, when you look at the teams, one side has their strength in their pack and the other has the strength in their backs. Against Exeter and Bordeaux our excellent back line struggled because they didn't get the space they needed to function, and it could be a similar situation this weekend given how overpowered our pack looks to be.

Munster's pack contain four members of the Ireland squad named yesterday, including Peter O'Mahony who has been released to get game time, and a further two Irish internationals, emphasising how strong their front eight are. If we're to win our first game over our southern rivals in two seasons we need our pack to step up to the mark in a big way.

It's not like we don't have the motivation though. With the possibility that we could slip to sixth by the end of the weekend if results go against us, combined with the fact that we know we have to front up against a massively physical squad, there's no room for error, particularly when we're at home.

If we can get our backs some quick ball, with the space to manoeuvre in as well, then our back three of Craig Gilroy, Tommy Bowe and Charles Piutau will really fancy their chances against their opposite numbers. But that relies on the likes of Rob Herring and Sean Reidy recycling the ball quickly to allow them to work their magic.

Put simply, this is going to be a big test, possibly even bigger than Bordeaux and Exeter were, given the circumstances. If we can get parity up front, a big ask against any Munster side, then our backs should have the quality to turn the game in our favour. But if we let Rassie Erasmus' men dominate the battle up front then this will be a very long night for us.

It's up to us to ensure that it's not.

The stats
Ulster were defeated by Connacht in Galway in round 6, their first loss of this campaign, and have not lost successive Guinness PRO12 encounters since February. Ulster have won their last seven matches in Belfast in all tournaments since Scarlets were successful there by a single point in the PRO12 on 21 February.

Munster tripped up at Leinster in round 6 of the Guinness PRO12 but have not lost back-to-back fixtures in the Championship since April. Munster’s only success against a fellow Irish province in their last six such encounters was 9-7 in this equivalent fixture in Ulster last season.

Munster are unbeaten in their last four meetings with Ulster since the Ulstermen triumphed 19-17 at Thomond Park in the PRO12 in May 2014. Munster are unbeaten on their last two visits to Kingspan Stadium and have not gone three matches without defeat in Belfast since the Second World War.

The teams
Eight changes for Ulster due to international call-ups and injuries, including the returns of Wiehahn Herbst and Dan Tuohy from long-term lay-offs. In the backs Charles Piutau shifts to full-back in place of the rested Jared Payne with Craig Gilroy coming onto the wing into the vacant jersey. On the opposite wing Tommy Bowe is recalled to the starting line-up with Andrew Trimble also rested. Darren Cave is named at inside centre with Stuart Olding ruled out due to injury. Up front it's an all-new front row of Callum Black, captain Rob Herring and the returning Herbst, with Tuohy coming into the second row with Pete Browne missing due to a concussion. The final change is in the back row where Robbie Diack is in for the injured Iain Henderson.

Munster make five changes to their side that defeated Glasgow last week, most of which are down to their international call-ups. Andrew Conway comes in at full back with Simon Zebo unavailable, while Ronan O'Mahony is forced onto the wing with Keith Earls suspended. Ian Keatley comes in for the rested Tyler Bleyendaal at fly-half, with Duncan Williams inside him at scrum-half due to Conor Murray's international duties. The pack remains mostly the same, but at number eight Jack O'Donoghue comes in for CJ Stander as the only change.

Ulster Rugby vs. Munster Rugby
Friday 28th October 2016, 19:05
Kingspan Stadium
Guinness PRO12 - Round 7

Live on BBC2 Northern Ireland and TG4

15. Charles Piutau, 14. Tommy Bowe, 13. Luke Marshall, 12. Darren Cave, 11. Craig Gilroy, 10. Paddy Jackson, 9. Ruan Pienaar; 1. Callum Black, 2. Rob Herring (capt.), 3. Wiehahn Herbst, 4. Dan Tuohy, 5. Franco van der Merwe, 6. Robbie Diack, 7. Sean Reidy, 8. Roger Wilson.

Replacements: 16. John Andrew, 17. Kyle McCall, 18. Andy Warwick, 19. Clive Ross, 20. Conor Joyce, 21. Paul Marshall, 22. Brett Herron, 23. Jacob Stockdale.

15. Andrew Conway, 14. Darren Sweetnam, 13. Jaco Taute, 12. Rory Scannell, 11. Ronan O'Mahony, 10. Ian Keatley, 9. Duncan Williams; 1. Dave Kilcoyne, 2. Niall Scannell, 3. John Ryan, 4. Donnacha Ryan, 5. Billy Holland, 6. Peter O'Mahony (capt.), 7. Tommy O'Donnell, 8. Jack O'Donoghue.

Replacements: 16. Vincent O'Brien, 17. Brian Scott, 18. Stephen Archer, 19. Darren O'Shea, 20. Robin Copeland, 21. Abrie Griesel, 22. Alex Wootton, 23. Dan Goggin.

Referee: Nigel Owens (WRU, 139th competition game)
Assistant Referees: Gwyn Morris (WRU), John Carvill (IRFU)
Citing Commissioner: Murray Whyte (IRFU)
TMO: Tim Hayes (WRU)[/tag]
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