Connacht face toughest task as four provinces go into action

I T’S A big evening in the fledgling Celtic Cup with the four Irish provinces all in action.

Ulster host Leinster in what should be a fascinating encounter at Ravenhill while Munster and Connacht travel to Glasgow and Llanelli respectively. Connacht could hardly have been handed a more difficult quarter-final draw than a visit to Llanelli one of several Welsh combinations showing signs of a revival since restructuring in this once mighty fortress of the game.

Coach Michael Bradley has undertaken his new role with enthusiasm and determination and the results to date have been most encouraging.

However, it's not just the enormity of taking on the Scarlets at Stradey Park that worries Bradley. He could badly do with the experience of Eric Elwood but the veteran number 10 remains a doubtful starter so David Hewitt will probably fill the gap. Garryowen pair Paul Neville and John O'Sullivan are joined in the Connacht back-row by former UCD flanker Tom Carter, returning to action after a year out through injury.

Injury has again struck the luckless young UCC out-half Conrad O'Sullivan and he misses Munster's visit to Glasgow. Jeremy Staunton, who moved from full-back to replace O'Sullivan at out-half in last week's league defeat at Swansea, duly scoring two tries, is retained in the pivotal berth by coach Alan Gaffney.

Jody Danagher of UL/Bohemians plays his first game for Munster at prop in place of the injured Martin Cahill and another highly promising forward, Stephen Keogh, comes into the back-row for Denis Leamy, who is ruled out by a damaged shoulder. That Connacht went to Hughendon last week and put one over on Glasgow suggests this will be a soft touch for Munster. However, they may discover the Scots, regarded as 'unfashionable' in their own country in comparison to Edinburgh and Borders, will be out to prove a point.

Like Munster, Leinster are severely hit by World Cup call-ups. They have had a very poor run in the Celtic League, twice squandering 14 point leads; a more settled Ulster may have the edge in a keenly fought contest under the Ravenhill lights.

But even without a raft of internationals, Ulster coach Alan Solomons is still expecting a very tough game.

"Leinster may be worse hit than we are with call-ups, but they are a young side and have a lot to prove," said Solomons who has Matt McCullough, Paul Shields and Neil Best starting for the first time this season. This traditional rivalry has always been there playing any province, there is always a derby element to it. Leinster have done well in the Heineken Cup in the last few years and are always strong opposition. The bad run of late will make them even more determined to put one over on us."

Despite a handy 38-17 victory over the Gwent Dragons last week, Solomons was not happy and he hopes there is a big improvement tonight.

"We were just not quick enough to the break down," he said. "hopefully we will have a little bit more pace to put ourselves in a good position to win quick ruck ball and give our backs plenty of time." Ulster prop Clem Boyd, sidelined with a minor heart complaint this season, is to have an MRI scan in London.

Boyd was due to receive the results of a procedure undergone last month upon suffering exhaustion and dizziness after Ulster's first game of the season against Orrell in August.

"I'm still hopeful to get back playing and I'm doing some light training. As long as my heart rate stays under 150 beats [a minute] I'm okay. It's when it goes up to 180 the problem arises. I was getting a very rapid beat which caused dizziness and a kind of short circuit," Boyd added.

"The procedure in the Royal allowed the medical people to map the heart. The MRI scan will hopefully show up the next step forward.'

GLASGOW: S. Moffett; R. Kerr, G. MacClure, A. Bulloch, D. Millard; D. Parkes, K. Sinclair; M. Proudfoot, S. Gunn, L. Harrison, A. Hall, N. Ross, C. Mather capt, D. MacFadyean, P. Dearlove. Replacements, S. Lawson, E. Murray, J. Beardshaw, R. Reid, R. McKnight, C. Howart, S. Lamont.

MUNSTER: D. Crotty; M. Lawler, M. Mullins, J. Jones-Hughes, S. Payne; J. Staunton, E. Reddan; S. Kerr, J. Flannery, J. Danagher, T. Hogan, D. Pusey, S. Keogh, D. Wallace, J. Williams capt. Replacements, M. McPhail, K. Keane, M. Prendergast, C. McMahon, E. Halvey, F. Roche, M. Cahill.

The Glasgow-Munster game is being shown live on TG4 starting at 7. 25.

More in this section

CourtsRugbyPlace: RavenhillPlace: GlasgowPlace: LlanelliPlace: Stradey ParkPlace: LondonPerson: Michael BradleyPerson: BradleyPerson: Eric ElwoodPerson: David HewittPerson: GarryowenPerson: Paul NevillePerson: John O'SullivanPerson: Tom CarterPerson: Conrad O'SullivanPerson: Jeremy StauntonPerson: O'SullivanPerson: Alan GaffneyPerson: Jody DanagherPerson: Martin CahillPerson: Stephen KeoghPerson: Denis LeamyPerson: HughendonPerson: Alan SolomonsPerson: SolomonsPerson: Matt McCulloughPerson: Paul ShieldsPerson: Neil BestPerson: Clem BoydPerson: BoydPerson: S. MoffettPerson: R. KerrPerson: G. MacClurePerson: A. BullochPerson: D. MillardPerson: D. ParkesPerson: K. SinclairPerson: M. ProudfootPerson: S. GunnPerson: L. HarrisonPerson: A. HallPerson: N. RossPerson: C. MatherPerson: D. MacFadyeanPerson: S. LawsonPerson: E. MurrayPerson: J. BeardshawPerson: R. ReidPerson: R. McKnightPerson: C. HowartPerson: S. LamontPerson: D. CrottyPerson: M. LawlerPerson: M. MullinsPerson: J. Jones-HughesPerson: S. PaynePerson: J. StauntonPerson: E. ReddanPerson: S. KerrPerson: J. FlanneryPerson: J. DanagherPerson: T. HoganPerson: D. PuseyPerson: S. KeoghPerson: D. WallacePerson: J. WilliamsPerson: M. McPhailPerson: K. KeanePerson: M. PrendergastPerson: C. McMahonPerson: E. HalveyPerson: F. RochePerson: M. CahillEvent: Celtic CupEvent: Heineken CupEvent: GlasgowOrganisation: ConnachtOrganisation: UlsterOrganisation: LeinsterOrganisation: MunsterOrganisation: ScarletsOrganisation: UCDOrganisation: UCCOrganisation: ULOrganisation: GlasgowOrganisation: BordersOrganisation: Gwent DragonsOrganisation: OrrellOrganisation: Royal
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