5 Talking Points Ahead Of Tonight’s Inter-Pro Between Munster & Connacht
Who will bounce back?
Munster host inter-provincial rivals Connacht tonight at Thomond Park, and go into the fixture as the only Irish province yet to get one over on their rivals this season.
After an immaculate start under new boss Johann van Graan, including a famous double over Leicester Tigers in the Champions Cup, the wheels have become unstuck on the transition in the last couple of weeks.
Connacht meanwhile are finally starting to find their feet under their new head coach Kieran Keane, after a stuttering start under the former Chiefs coach.
Here are five talking points ahead of the game.
Nothing less than a win for Munster.
Munster really can’t afford to be seen losing this fixture after a poor run of results over the festive period. The southern province have a backline littered with Irish internationals, including Lions Test star Conor Murray. And a pack that’s led by another Lion in CJ Stander, with 1st Test captain Peter O’Mahony on the bench. Connacht meanwhile are without Irish Internationals Ultan Dillane, Kieran Marmion and Bundee Aki.
Conor Oliver returns.
The openside that has been grabbing all the headlines in recent weeks, Chris Cloete, has been rested this week, with Irishman Conor Oliver given a chance to impress after returning from serious injury. The former Leinster recruit was hugely impressive last season before picking up the injury. With the competition now in Munster’s back-row, he won’t get too many chances like this to impress.
O’Halloran’s chance to shine.
After being linked with a move to Munster in recent weeks, Tiernan O’Halloran now faces the southern province having signed a new deal to remain with Connacht. Has been overlooked by Joe Schmidt in recent squads, despite some excellent form. Huge chance for him today to show his worth against some of Schmidt’s favourites in the Irish set-up.
Chris Farrell must get straight up to speed.
The former Ulster centre was a surprise inclusion in the starting line-up after only recently recovering from a knee problem. Following Sam Arnold’s red card, he’s set to miss Munster’s final two Champions Cup pool games, meaning Farrell will need to get back to speed and match fitness ASAP. With Jaco Taute also still out, he’s the only real option available to van Graan this month, hence why his return was probably rushed.
Connacht must not be underestimated.
Despite fielding a weakened team, Kieran Keane’s Connacht must not be underestimated. They’ve got plenty of experience in their pack in the likes of captain John Muldoon, Australian Jarrad Butler and Ireland international Quinn Roux. They’ve also got some dangerous men in their backline such as Tiernan O’Halloran and Matt Healy, with both in excellent form of late. If Munster aren’t careful and fully prepared, Connacht could do a number on them in Thomond Park without Aki, Dillane and co.